Is it time for high-speed rail between Edmonton and Calgary?
The province is holding public hearings this month to gauge the interest level of Albertans
Jim Kerr is Alberta Venture's web editor. Get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Jim Kerr
It’s been almost three decades since we’ve had train service between Edmonton and Calgary and building a high-speed option would cost anywhere from $3 billion to $20 billion, but it’s a question that just won’t go away:
Should Alberta have a high-speed passenger rail line between it’s two biggest cities?
It’s a touchy subject – proponents of the line say it would strengthen the Edmonton-Calgary corridor, provide thousands of new jobs and provide a range of economic benefits, from a bump in household income to increased tax revenue for the government. People on the other side of the debate say Alberta simply doesn’t have a large enough population to make high-speed rail a worthwhile investment at the expense of other projects.
Alberta Infrastructure Minister Ric McIver is among the undecided, telling the Edmonton Journal, “I don’t think it’s been demonstrated to me yet … that it makes sense. But then again the research goes on and we, as a government, need to make decisions based on the best information available.”
A project of this size would be a massive undertaking for the government, but what if it could be funded privately?
Alberta High-Speed Rail chairman Jack Crawford turned some heads recently when he told a legislative committee that his company could build the line for less than $4 billion and fund the entire project through private investment. To boot, Crawford says construction of the project wouldn’t begin until all of the required capital was raised, so the government wouldn’t be left with a partially built line.
Crawford says his company would use conventional steel wheel on steel rail, electrically powered trains that can reach speeds of 300 km/h and go from downtown Edmonton to downtown Calgary in just under 90 minutes for about $200 return.
If you’d like to have your voice heard on the matter, the province is holding public hearings on high-speed rail starting on February 24th in Calgary, then moving to Red Deer on the 25th and wrapping up in Edmonton on the 26th.