As mayors of the largest economic centres in Ontario and Quebec, we call unanimously on the federal government to invest in high-frequency rail to support Canada’s post-pandemic economic recovery and long-term environmental objectives.

As businesses, communities and all levels of government across Canada continue to manage the impacts of the ongoing pandemic, it is imperative to invest in sustainable and large-scale infrastructure projects that will support a green and inclusive recovery for our cities and regions.

The federal government has repeatedly shown its interest and commitment in investing in sustainable projects, which would create a more resilient and greener Canada. If we are to come out of this unprecedented crisis stronger, we need projects that will serve the needs of present and future generations. This is exactly what VIA Rail’s High Frequency Rail (HFR) project will achieve by connecting Québec, Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto.

High-frequency rail will upgrade and build new tracks dedicated to passenger service, connecting surrounding regions at the same time. It will offer more daily departures, shorter trip times, and increased punctuality. In other words, by connecting our communities more efficiently, this project will have huge repercussions for millions of Canadians and visitors from around the world.

This large-scale endeavour will have a substantial economic impact. In the short term, HFR will contribute to Canada’s economic recovery by creating thousands of jobs during the construction phase. In the long run, HFR will further increase the mobility of workers, as well as local economic development and tourism in communities along the corridor. That said, its impacts will be felt on a national scale, as it will operate in the most densely populated region of the country.

Beyond the direct economic benefits, VIA Rail’s HFR project will also transform the way Canadians travel and live. By providing more departures, HFR will make travel easier, offer a viable and sustainable alternative to the car, and therefore reduce road congestion, the cost of maintaining highways and greenhouse gas emissions.

For all the reasons stated above, we believe this VIA Rail project is in line with the government of Canada’s stated commitment to invest in sustainable infrastructure. Therefore, as the tabling of the 2021 federal budget approaches, we ask the federal government to invest in this nation-building project.

In times of crisis, we need to invest in projects that will not only boost our economy in the short and long term, but also ensure the resilience, sustainability and competitiveness of our communities. High-frequency rail is part of the solution.

Jim Watson is the mayor of Ottawa; Régis Labeaume is the mayor of Québec City; Valérie Plante is the mayor of Montreal; and John Tory is the mayor of Toronto. (photo credit: MIKE CARROCCETTO /Canwest News Service)