Canada’s Real-Time Payment System Launch Delayed to 2026

Canada’s long-awaited Real-Time Rail (RTR) payments system, initially slated for launch in 2019 and later pushed to mid-2023, now faces another delay, according to Finextra. The system, which aims to enable Canadians to initiate payments and receive irrevocable funds in seconds, 24/7/365, will not be operational until at least 2026.

Payments Canada, the organization overseeing the RTR program, has announced the involvement of new tech partners IBM and CGI in the project. The RTR program will resume with «renewed momentum» following the completion of a second review.

The first phase of the RTR program, involving the exchange component provided by Interac, was completed in June 2023. This phase allows for the exchange of payment messages in real-time. However, the second phase, which involves building the real-time clearing and settlement component, is still in progress and is expected to continue through 2024.

Industry testing of the system is scheduled for 2026, with no specific launch date provided yet. Payments Canada interim co-CEO Jude Pinto stated, «We know the ecosystem is anticipating the launch of the RTR, and we will have further details to share in the coming months.»

Initially, Mastercard-owned Vocalink was contracted to provide the clearing and settlement infrastructure, with TCS serving as the integration lead. However, Payments Canada’s update does not mention either firm, instead welcoming IBM Canada and CGI as new partners, alongside Interac. When asked about the involvement of Mastercard and TCS, a spokesperson declined to comment.

Pinto emphasized the collective focus on building a sustainable real-time payment system that will support long-term payment innovation and the advancement of Canada’s economy. The delay comes after a series of setbacks, including a third-party review in early 2023 that recommended additional testing and investments to ensure smooth operations once the RTR system goes live.

While the RTR faces delays, another component of Canada’s payments modernization initiative, the Lynx high-value payment system, was successfully launched in 2021.

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