Alberta Regional Rail offers a passenger train line across the province – Lethbridge
From 1885 — when the North Western Coal and Navigation Company built the first passenger railway to Lethbridge — until 1971, trains were a viable mode of transportation for southern Albertans.
“There were really very few places that the railroad couldn’t reach and the communities lived or died if they had a railroad there, so it was amazing to see how they criss-crossed the community,” said said Lethbridge Historical Society president Belinda Crowson.
“When you talk to people who remember using it, they loved it. They loved the Dayliner, the ones you could take to Calgary or connect to other communities.
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Now, a group wants to give back this possibility.
Alberta Regional Rail Inc. offers a passenger line, beginning with a track between Calgary and Edmonton, eventually expanding to communities across the province.
“Ultimately connecting all regions of northwest, northeast, southwest and southeast Alberta to the heart of what we are working on,” said the director of the Global Sourcing, Vern Raincock.
“We are late to the table, you will tell me. Already, similar projects have been in place for decades in Canada. A good example would be the GO train in the Toronto area, as well as the West Coast Express. Their traffic has always been strong, even during COVID.
Passenger train between Calgary airport, downtown and Banff in front of City Council
This is an idea that is also being explored south of the border.
In 2020, the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority was created in Montana with the goal of bringing back the North Coast Hiawatha line, which would connect the southern part of the state to Seattle and Chicago.
President Dave Strohmaier says the group has made tremendous progress over the past year and has had informal discussions with Alberta Regional Rail about the process.
“Not just recreating and restoring what once was, important as that is, but also thinking about what could be in the future and for us that means looking at the viability of international passenger rail service,” Strohmaier said.
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Alberta Regional Rail officials say improving accessibility between municipalities would also help local businesses.
“Without a mobility solution like ours, it would be very difficult for people to justify themselves – just jumping in a car just to drive 10 miles to pick up something at a farmers market in another community,” said Raincock.
If funding and a passenger rail authority can be established, officials hope to have a train on track by 2030.
“Our ultimate goal is probably to have a demonstration within three years (after we get the funding) and then hopefully within five years to start limited service,” Raincock said.
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