Feasibility Study for a Northern Quebec Railway Link
The Bankable Feasibility Study concerned the evaluation and proposal of technical solutions and a business model for an open access multi-user rail link between the Labrador Trough in Quebec and the seaport sector along the St. Lawrence River in the Sept-Îles region, at the lowest possible cost, for the transportation of iron ore and other natural resources for the economic development of Northern Quebec.
The objective was to analyze the technical and economic feasibility of building a new railway, including the management and supervision of ground operations (surveying, geotechnical, forest clearing) to be carried out during milder seasons. The completion of these ground operations provided the necessary data to undertake the preliminary engineering of the main track, sidings and water crossings.
CANARAIL (now SYSTRA Canada) supervised and executed all engineering tasks of the study, as well as the management of the multiple stakeholders involved in the project.
More specifically, SYSTRA Canada assisted the client (SFNQ) by acting on its behalf with the following entities:
- Société du Plan Nord – Presentation of the project, and calculation of the number of jobs and revenues it could generate for the province of Quebec.
- MDDELCC – Presentation of the impacts of train traffic near the aquatic reserves and calculation of emissions.
- Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones – Management of issues related to the consultation of First Nations groups, namely the Innu Nation Matimekush-Lac John and the Innu Nation Takuaikan Uashat mak Mani-Utenam.
- MERN – Coordination of the timely obtaining of permits for geotechnical surveys, forest clearing, and land surveying.
- Port of Sept-Îles – Identification and analysis of port challenges (limited land available for expansion, critical bottlenecks for train unloading and ship loading).
- Industries/Mines – Integration of transportation logistics issues, key performance indicators and pricing that would make the railway competitive.
- Railways – Integration of freight transport profitability into tariff calculations ($/tonne transported).
The services provided by SYSTRA Canada during the feasibility study included the following activities:
- Feasibility study for the electrification of the track linking the Labrador Trough and Pointe-Noire;
- EPCM management of the field investigation operations along the alignment, which included the following:
- Surveying and geotechnical investigation services;
- Forest clearing services;
- Helicopter transportation services;
- Geotechnical study.
- Simulation of cycle times on the optimized alignment with software based on a moving block signalling system;
- Operation and maintenance plan;
- Maximum transport capacity calculation based on the lowest possible capital cost;
- Assessment of available capacity at existing ports (Sept-Îles, Port-Cartier);
- Long-term forecasts of the price of iron and the expected long-term evolution of demand in the markets;
- Calculation of the cut and fil volumes to be carried out as part of the earthworks activities during construction;
- Assessment of the:
- Drainage watersheds along the route;
- Tunnels, engineering structures and culverts;
- Signalling, telecommunications and operations management (traffic control) requirements;
- Operation and maintenance manpower;
- Electric and diesel locomotive options and optimal car type and unloading configuration.
- Integration of transportation activities with loading activities at the mine and unloading activities at the port;
- Development of a constructability plan, including camps, transportation, logistics and others;
- Land rights considerations for the land on which the railway right-of-way is located;
- Environmental and social considerations during construction;
- Financial models, including the various financing options for the project;
- Identification of potential operators;
- Assessment of the potential to purchase or lease with an option to purchase equipment;
- Rolling stock, traction power and track maintenance;
- Telecommunications towers and fiber-optic equipment;
- Rail traffic coordination services;
- Business plan development and assembly.