Payments Canada has announced a path forward for the Real-Time Rail (RTR), Canada’s fastest payment system. The system will allow payments to be sent and received, cleared and settled in real-time 24/7, 365 days a year. However, on the latest proposed timetable, industry testing will not begin earlier than 2026.

The aim is to give Canadians more control over their finances by allowing payments to be made in seconds not days. And it will provide greater confidence that payments have been finalised. It will also provide the foundation for new payment products and services to be introduced by members and innovators. The end result will be greater payment choice and convenience for all Canadians. Payments Canada says that RTR reflects its commitment to provide a safe and secure foundation for participants to innovate. That includes a centralised fraud utility service.

Large-scale, multi-year infrastructure program

The RTR is a complex, large-scale, multi-year infrastructure program that includes two key technical components. The build of the RTR exchange component provided by Interac was completed in June 2023. It will allow for the exchange of payment messages in real-time. The second piece is the build of the real-time clearing and settlement component.

“Over the past year, we have reviewed our path forward through engagement and collaboration from our members, regulators and key stakeholders. Our collective focus is on building a sustainable real-time payment system. That will support long-term payment innovation and the continued advancement of our economy, Canada’s international economic competitiveness and provide value and benefit to Canadian consumers and businesses,” said Jude Pinto, Co-CEO (Interim) and Chief Delivery Officer, Payments Canada.

“The last component of the RTR, the clearing and settlement build, will continue through 2024 prior to initiating testing of the new system through 2025 and into industry testing in 2026. We know the ecosystem is anticipating the launch of the RTR, and we will have further details to share in the coming months.”

New partners IBM and CGI join Interac to support delivery of RTR

The path forward for the RTR includes new partners IBM Canada and CGI. Along with Interac, they will support the delivery and operation of the RTR.

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Back in 2020, Payments Canada announced that Mastercard’s Vocalink would be the clearing and settlement solution provider for RTR.

As part of Payments Canada’s larger Modernisation initiative, IBM Canada was the lead technology partner for the successful implementation and operation of Lynx. That is Canada’s high-value payment system and a key system underpinning the Canadian economy. Lynx represented a significant collaborative effort between Payments Canada, its member participants, regulators and technology partners.

“We are working in close collaboration and alignment with the payment ecosystem to deliver, as a team, the RTR for the benefit of Canadians,” said Pinto. “We are excited to bring the RTR program to fruition for Canada.”

Guy Vigeant, President, CGI Canada, added: “Having a real time payment system that enables Canadians to transfer funds instantly and securely is key to the transformation of Canada’s economy. It opens the door to innovative payment offerings like mobile wallets and other application-based payments that can enable greater financial inclusion for all citizens. CGI is proud to bring our worldwide expertise and experience to the team as a partner in helping Payments Canada usher in a new era of payments in Canada.”