Since the birth of Canada’s first railway back in 1836, rail has been fundamental to the nation’s prosperity. But what started out as a 26-kilometre rail line has expanded into an intricate network of, in excess of 40,000 kilometres of track, and one of the most efficient, safe and cost-effective transportation systems in the world. Today, around 70% of all intercity surface freight and half of Canada’s exports are moved by rail. 1
Railways provide many benefits to Canada and Canadians, economically and environmentally, and railway infrastructure needs to be given the same importance as that given to the road system in Canada.
Canadian railways cross some of the most rugged topography in the world and operate under severe climatic conditions, ranging from extreme cold and snow to heat and humidity.
Improved federal funding for developing, maintaining and upgrading our freight and passenger rail transportation systems across the country will enable railroads and transits to reduce highway overcrowding and ease the burden on public highway infrastructure.
In addition, some provinces, such as Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Manitoba, have recognized the burdens that certain railways assume in maintaining their infrastructure, (such as property taxes on rights-of-way), and have offered both tax relief and financial assistance. Expansion of such policies and programs by the federal government and other provinces would contribute to the continued viability of the industry.
For example, the current freight car loading standard for the North American railway industry is 286,000 lbs. The short-line infrastructure cannot handle these loads and are unable to privately fund the upgrade on their own as their profit margins are limited. Public-private partnerships would allow the upgrades to progress providing environmental and societal benefits to Canadians.
Public transit is the backbone of livable cities. Better transit means less congestion, faster commutes, more convenience, higher productivity and lower emissions. Simply put: public transit builds better lives. Canadian society is going through a paradigm of being transformed, albeit slowly, from a personal vehicle centric society to users of public transit.2
The 2018 – 2028 Canadian Transit Infrastructure Needs Report summarizes the results of the biennial survey of CUTA transit systems members. Based on the study, infrastructure funding needs, amount to $74.9 billion through 2022, more than 25% of which, or $19.5 billion, is currently unfunded.
Through 2028, total funding needs, including the amount required to meet agreed modal share increase targets, is $75 billion, of which only about 25% is currently funded. Using current growth projections 2023-2028 investment needs total $58.4 billion, of which one-third is funded.3
We must ensure that adequate investments are being made by all levels of government in strategic public infrastructure, especially in improved and expanded transportation networks.
The rail/transit supply sector will play a critical role in responding to the needs of multi-modal infrastructure.
3 2018-2028 Canadian Transit Infrastructure Needs - a study by Steer Consultants - 1502-80 Richmond St W Toronto, ON M5H 2A4 Canada