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Calgary-Banff passenger rail gets high priority Government of Alberta

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A proposed hydrogen passenger rail line between Calgary International Airport and Banff is receiving a new priority from the provincial government.

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The link championed by a Banff-based company was highlighted in the United Conservative Party government’s economic mandate released on Tuesday, which touted the importance of tourism.

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And in a letter to Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek, Premier Danielle Smith said the province wants to explore the possibility of helping the the city extends its SLR to the airportperhaps to work in tandem with a rail link to Banff.

“I would also invite the city to work with the province and possibly private industry to explore options for the creation of a rail link between Calgary and Canmore/Banff,” she said in a letter dated May 15. november.

“Such a line would benefit Calgarians, Albertans and all visitors to our province by providing access to one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, our provincial and national system of mountain parks.

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Smith goes on to say that such a rail line would boost international and local tourism while improving safety by reducing car traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway between Calgary and the mountain mecca.

And she said the train would also benefit the province’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop green industries.

I would also highlight the potential for using hydrogen locomotives in this effort, which would both reduce emissions and aligns with our government’s strategy vision to make Alberta a world leader in hydrogen technology research and development and manufacturing,” Smith said.

Liricon Capital Inc. and Plenary America, which are spearhead of the Calgary-Banff airport Rail project, say they have submitted a proposal to Alberta Transportation, Invest Alberta and the Canada Infrastructure Bank to advance the concept which they hope to have completed by mid-2025.

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The Canada Infrastructure Bank would cover half of the $1.5 billion construction cost.

Artist's rendering of Calgary Airport-Banff Rail at Banff station.
Artist’s rendering of Calgary Airport-Banff Rail at Banff station. Courtesy of Liricon Capital

The preliminary plan envisages a route of 150 kilometers rail line running south from the airport, parallel to the existing CP tracks along the west side of the Deerfoot Trail before crossing the Bow River on an existing bridge.

The proposed stations would be located at the airport, downtown, near Stoney Trail on the Trans-Canada Highway, Cochrane, Morley, Canmore and Banff. It’s newly built the tracks would follow the existing CP freight corridor, carrying 10 trains a day to the Rocky Mountain terminus.

Family-owned Liricon Capital, owner of the Mount Norquay ski resort and holder of a long-term lease of the existing Banff train station, predicted the line could beattracting less than 25% of visitors to Banff National Park,which welcomes more than four million people a year, by far the busiest of Canada’s national parks.

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According to Jan Waterous, managing partner of Liricon, a recent clarification of the company’s financial case with the province, which would see it inject a cap of $30 million per year to help pay off the project’s mortgage, been the key to renewed interest from the province.

The province had pulled out of the project, citing concerns about possible increased costs to ratepayers.

“We have been working with the province since June to clarify this,” she said.

Another factor was Park’s Canada’s unveiling last August of its 10-year management plan for Banff National Park, which emphasizes low-emission public transit, Waterous said.

“These things are a big incentive for the province to revisit it,” she said.

“I feel so optimistic. … It’s been a journey, but we’re so close, now we feel invigorated again.

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Waterous said she expects to meet with provincial officials in the coming weeks in hopes of advancing consultations with communities along the rail line, including First Nations — a process that is expected to take 18 month.

This would lead to design and construction under a public-private partnership whose costs would be minimized by simply twinning tracks along CP’s current rail route, she said.

“It’s space that we would basically rent from CP Rail,” Waterous said, adding that Liricon last month renewed a memorandum of understanding with the railroad for another year in hopes of get the green light from the province.

  1. Artist's rendering of the proposed train to run between Calgary International Airport and Banff.  Courtesy of Liricon Capital

    Supporters of the Banff passenger rail project say they need a yes or no answer from the province

  2. Artist's rendering of Calgary Airport-Banff Rail at Banff station.  Courtesy of Liricon Capital

    Passenger Rail Connection Between Calgary Airport, Downtown and Banff Gets Closer to Reality

Environmental critics have raised concerns about the train and the possibility of increased collisions with wildlife.

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Waterous said design consultations could incorporate features such as wildlife underpasses or overpasses, or other protective measures.

“The goal is to make the tracks safer for wildlife than they have ever been,” she said.

Tackling growing traffic congestion and its environmental degradation, Waterous said, was the main catalyst for his company’s efforts to create the rail line.

While welcoming Smith’s expressions of interest in an LRT link to the airport, Calgary Nose-Hill MP Michelle Rempel-Garner said governments should focus on improving rail transportation for residents underserved in the center-north of the city.

Nearly 10 years ago, the federal government provided $1.5 billion for a light rapid transit train line that would take nearly 50,000 vehicles off the road by allowing communities in north central Calgary to connect to the rest of the city via light rapid transit,” she said. said in a statement.

“Today the community has grown significantly as this infrastructure is no longer on the table, despite this investment.”

[email protected]

Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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