New passenger railway proposed for Ottawa region

A private-sector group is proposing a new passenger railway for the Ottawa region.

By Jacob Serebrin

The group, called the Moose, or Mobility Ottawa Outaouais: Systems and Enterprises, Consortium, applied for approval from the Canadian Transportation Agency to move forward with its plan in late June.

"Our plan involves operating three-coach, double-decker diesel-electric passenger trains with hourly service every day, through Ottawa and Gatineau, and extending out to six rural towns," Scott Ivay, one of the people behind the plan, said in a press release.

The railway would run on existing VIA tracks and connect with Ottawa’s light rail service at Bayview Station in LeBreton Flats as well as with VIA tracks at the Tremblay Road station.

According to the group, it would require no new government spending to get up and running.

The plan would also see the consortium make some infrastructure investments of its own.

"We have now formally submitted Moose's $50-million plan to retrofit the bridge between Ottawa and Gatineau. In addition to the repairs and upgrades required to restart railway operations, this will include the addition of a new cycling pathway cantilevered off the upstream side, and a pedestrian walkway on the downstream side, with picnic areas on Lemieux Island, offering a direct view of Parliament Hill," Wojciech Remisz, the president of REMISZ Consulting Engineers, one of the companies in the consortium, said in the release.

The group’s financing model calls for the railway service to be funded largely through commercial and residential development at and around train stations.

"All the infrastructure and operational financing will be based upon the value added to property income and capital near stations," Joseph Potvin, Moose’s director general, said in the release. "Each station will be owned, developed and operated as an autonomous enterprise under common regulation and monitoring."

So far, the plan has the endorsement of Smith Falls Mayor Shawn Pankow.

"A rail service for the whole National Capital Region will transform our town and others like it for the better," he said in the release. "Faster, more efficient and more environmentally sustainable transportation will provide tremendous economic benefit for the people of Smiths Falls and the entire region."

The group hopes to obtain approval from Canadian Transportation Agency within three months. At that point it will begin negotiations with railway owners, including VIA, as well as several municipalities.

If the plan does go ahead, it will the largest privately funded passenger railway to launch in Canada in more than a century.

The group says that if everything goes as planned, it could start moving passengers as soon as July, 2017.