Electrification in Canada

In Canada, several jurisdictions are now studying the feasibility of a move towards electrification of rail, or in the case of Montreal, Quebec, already have some electric technology in place as part of their rail system:

  • Ontario – Metrolinx/GO Transit
    • GO network serves 61 stations on 388 km’s of route network with daily ridership of approximately 160,000.
    • Electrification Study now underway to examine feasibility of system-wide electrification of GO Transit’s seven rail corridors.
  • Quebec – Montreal AMT
    • AMT operates both diesel and electric locomotives on their network, which serves 59 stations on 214 km’s of route network, with daily ridership of approximately 70,000 passengers per day
    • Feasibility study under way to look at electrification of Montreal area commuter rail service
    • Scroll below to read the AMT Technology Case Study
  • Alberta – Alberta High Speed Rail
    • Undertaking a feasibility study for a 300 kilometre electric high speed rail connection between Calgary and Edmonton
    • Scroll below to read the Alberta High Speed Rail Case Study
  • Quebec/Ontario – Ontario Quebec Corridor High Speed Rail Feasibility Study
    • Awarded to the EcoTrain Consortium in February 2009 to update the previous 1995 study.

Technology Case Studies – Canada

Technology Case Study #1:
AMT, Montreal – Reseau de Trains de Banlieue Fact Sheet

AMT operates an extensive network of regional commuter rail services in Montreal. Across Canada, this is the only commuter rail network that closely resembles the GO Transit operation in terms of the scale of operation, intensity of ridership and technology in use. While the majority of AMT’s services are operated by diesel powered locomotives, the “Deux Montagnes” line (the blue line on the network map) is operated by Electric Multiple Units. Electrification occurred at the same time the line was extended into downtown Montreal in 1918 and was the solution to the challenging problem of providing adequate ventilation in the then new 5.2 km Mont Royal tunnel, running 220 metres under the summit of Mont Royal.

AMT system map

The pink line serving the northeast region of Montreal (named Train de L’est) will open in 2010. This route traverses the Mont Royal tunnel. A new batch of dual mode locomotives that can operate under either diesel or electric power will provide motive power for the route. Elsewhere on the network, AMT plans to increase ridership capacity by 70% through the introduction of two-story passengers cars and the purchase of additional dual mode locomotives to add to existing service frequencies. While these locomotives will only operate in electric mode on the Deux Montagnes line, a study was initiated in 2009 to investigate the potential for expanding the network of electrified tracks.

Line Deux Montagnes AMT Train
System Reseau de Trains de Banlieau
Operator AMT
Country Canada
Service Commuter
Rolling Stock EMUs
Speed/Headway 120 km/h/10-30 min
Electrification 25 kV, 60 Hz

Technology Case Study #2:
Alberta High Speed Rail Study – The Calgary to Edmonton Corridor

The Province of Alberta commissioned a thorough study to examine the economic benefits of proceeding with a high speed rail corridor between Calgary and Edmonton. A part of that analysis reviewed the relative merits of employing different technologies on the line, including High Speed Diesel (200kmh), Turbine Electric (250kmh), High Speed Electric (300kmh), and Maglev (450kmh).

No regular rail service is operated on this corridor. Travellers currently face a journey of approximately 2.5 to 4 hours (downtown to downtown) by either road or air. Proponents believe the journey time on this corridor could be reduced to as little as 60 minutes with the introduction of a high speed rail line.

Alberta High Speed Rail study

The study is complete and has been published. The findings were presented to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, a Federal Parliamentary Committee which is studying the potential for high speed rail in Canada. Initiated in 2009, the Committee’s study is currently ongoing. Once complete, the Committee will make strategic recommendations to the federal government regarding future development of high speed rail in Canada.