Plans for a passenger train linking Calgary airport and Banff are more focused

Plans to establish passenger rail service linking Calgary International Airport and Banff National Park moved one step closer to completion on Thursday.

Invest Alberta, the provincial government’s crown corporation that attracts investment, announced that it has entered into a detailed memorandum of understanding for the passenger rail project alongside Alberta Transportation and Bank of Alberta. Canada Infrastructure (BIC), a federal Crown corporation.

Memoranda of Understanding are agreements that outline shared plans between parties but are not yet legally binding.

In a statement, Invest Alberta said the CIB had “reaffirmed its support for the project and will continue to consider long-term investment.”

If the project were to go ahead, it could see the establishment of a 150 kilometer passenger rail service that would potentially include seven stops:

  • Calgary International Airport.
  • Downtown Calgary.
  • Calgary Keith (near Lynx Ridge Golf Club).
  • Cochrane.
  • Morley (Stoney Nakoda).
  • Canmore.
  • Banff.

Feasibility studies for the project were completed following the signing of a memorandum of understanding in June 2020 between Alberta Transportation and CIB.

If the train line is built, it would be a public-private partnership.

David Knight Legg, senior board adviser and founding CEO of Invest Alberta, said CIB will now work with the company on the design, construction and technology to be used on the project.

“By the end of the year, we should come up with a development plan that will allow us to assess what it costs to continue operating a train like this in the long term,” Legg told The Homestretch.

“[Plus]what will be the price to taxpayers, and then what costs will be borne by the private sector as part of its commitment to make these projects work. »

Traffic jam in Banff

In 2019, a joint study that saw Banff partner with Calgary, Canmore, Cochrane, Lake Louise and Morley found that a train would not be feasible without provincial or federal funding.

Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen said passenger rail service has long been identified as a solution to relieving traffic congestion on highways and mountain roads.

“Bow Valley communities have been working to bring back affordable public transit for several years,” Sorensen said in a statement.

“We are thrilled to see progress in developing an eco-friendly service that would connect workers to jobs across the Valley, reduce vehicle emissions and provide a fantastic way to enjoy this special place in the Rockies. .”

Passengers wait to board the Canadian at Banff in 1955. Banff became a tourist destination after Canadian Pacific Railway workers discovered Sulfur Mountain hot springs in the 1880s. (Nicholas Morant/Town of Banff)

Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, Premier Jason Kenney said the line holds economic and environmental promise for Alberta.

“We understand that Banff Park has the highest CO2 emissions of any major park in the world,” Kenney said.

“It’s because of all the car traffic. It would take a lot of vehicles off the road while simultaneously improving the tourist experience.”

It is expected that the service would offer up to 10 departures per day from the airport to Banff.

It may also have the ability to operate an express service from the airport to downtown Calgary every 15 minutes, according to Invest Alberta.

Invest Alberta said it will engage with the market over the summer while the provincial government seeks feedback from municipalities and Indigenous communities.

Jose P. Rogers