Province Commissions Economic Impact Study of Calgary-Banff Passenger Rail Project

“It’s an economic impact study that was commissioned in December. Further details will be available once the study is complete,” said Rob Williams, press secretary for Alberta Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney.

BANFF – The province of Alberta has hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct an economic impact study on a proposed $1.5 billion Calgary-Banff passenger train project – but remains completely silent on all the details.

Despite repeated attempts by the Rocky Mountain Outlook for information from the Department of Transportation on what the study entails, the information was not provided.

“It’s an economic impact study that was commissioned in December. Further details will be available once the study is complete,” Rob Williams, press secretary for Alberta Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney, said in an email.

“As part of the government’s due diligence to ensure Alberta taxpayers’ dollars are spent wisely, PricewaterhouseCoopers has been selected to conduct a review through a competitive process.

Williams wouldn’t answer when asked whether or not the province plans to commission environmental studies, but said Alberta Transportation continues to review all aspects of the Calgary-Banff passenger rail project.

“We have made no decision or financial commitment,” he said.

The passenger train project is led by Jan and Adam Waterous of Banff, who own the Mount Norquay ski resort in Banff and hold the lease to the Canadian Pacific Railway lands on the north and south sides of the tracks. Banff train station. .

In December, Waterous’ company, Liricon Capital, partnered with Quebec-based Plenary Americas to submit an updated proposal to Alberta Transportation, Invest Alberta Corporation and the Canada Infrastructure Bank to move into the development phase. design of the passenger rail project from Calgary to Banff. .

The proposal is to provide passenger train service from Calgary International Airport to downtown Calgary, which could include express service every 15 minutes, and to the mountains in Canmore and Banff as early as 2025.

The proposal is structured as a public-private partnership (P3), which envisions financing from private and institutional capital and the Canada Infrastructure Bank.

The objective is to operate a new dedicated passenger line built within the existing Canadian Pacific Railway freight corridor.

Under the proposal, trains would run at high frequency between seven stations – Calgary Airport, Downtown Calgary, Calgary Keith, Cochrane, Stoney Nakoda, Canmore and Banff.

The plan would see PPP and the Canada Infrastructure Bank contribute the full $1.5 billion in capital costs and operate the system.

The proposal seeks payment from the Government of Alberta of $30 million per year for the project. According to this pitch, government payments would not start until construction is complete and would depend on the performance of the train.

Liricon entered into a memorandum of understanding with CP Rail in April 2021 to lease part of the rail giant’s 150-kilometre corridor between Calgary Airport and Banff so that a dedicated line can be built.

The project is presented as a way to connect communities, to provide a means of transport for visitors to reduce the number of cars and congestion, and therefore less pollution. Over four million tourists visited Banff each year before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Critics, however, worry that passenger rail will mean even more tourists in the already busy communities of Canmore and Banff, without actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions if people continue to drive, as well as to have a negative effect on wildlife.

Canmore Council has approved $100,000 for a study in 2022 to assess the best location for a passenger rail station in Canmore and examine the impact of the Calgary-Banff rail project on the municipality’s transportation systems , such as Roam Transit.

A spokesperson for PricewaterhouseCoopers did not return to Outlook at press time.

Jose P. Rogers