From the Western Standard:
Robert Vineberg with the Canada West Foundation wants to know what’s holding up a Calgary-Edmonton high-speed train?
Robert Vineberg – July 20, 2009
The release, on July 6, of the Government of Alberta’s report on a Market Assessment of High Speed Rail Service in the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor leads to the consideration of a number of political and policy issues, both provincially and nationally, that might be resolved or, at least, substantially mitigated by a high speed train project.
The Alberta Government faces several problems that could be solved by introducing high speed train service in the Edmonton-Calgary Corridor. Alberta has to show the world that it is committed to a greener economy; it has to improve its transportation infrastructure; and, it has to develop more economic alternatives to the oil and gas industry.
An electrified high speed train service between Edmonton and Calgary would take passengers from downtown Calgary to downtown Edmonton in about an hour or an hour and a half, depending on the technology chosen. This would reduce green house emissions by millions of tonnes, as travellers switch from cars that take at least three hours to make the trip or planes that take as long, including time for check-in and security and time to get to and from the airports.
The transportation infrastructure, particularly in the Edmonton-Calgary Corridor, will need massive upgrading as the population of Alberta continues to grow rapidly. Highway 2 can be endlessly expanded in to a “401 West” or be transformed into a true transportation corridor by the addition of high speed rail. A fast, frequent and reliable rail service linking downtown Calgary, Red Deer and downtown Edmonton, with suburban stations at or near Calgary International Airport and Edmonton International Airport, would be an enormous improvement to Alberta’s transportation network.
In addition, if Alberta were to opt for a high speed rail system, it would be in a strong position to ensure that some of the production facilities be built in Alberta. Manufacturing facilities for the rail and related industries would considerably expand Alberta’s industrial base. In addition, the planning and construction of such a major project would create new expertise within Alberta’s engineering and design industry and create thousands of ongoing jobs. The Alberta Government’s accompanying report on Economics Benefits for Development of High Speed Rail Service in the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor, documents the huge economic benefits that might be generated by the project.
A high speed train from Calgary to Edmonton could also serve to get the Federal Government out of a tight spot. It is inevitable that a high speed train service will be introduced in the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor and, in time, extended to both Quebec City and Windsor. It is also inevitable that federal money will be necessary for a project of such scale. And, it is inevitable that the Federal Government would be criticised for making such an enormous investment in Central Canada. Inevitable, that is, unless the Federal Government had already invested in a “demonstration project” elsewhere in Canada, namely the Calgary-Edmonton corridor. Why would the west criticize the Federal Government for making the same investment in high speed rail in Central Canada that it had already made in Alberta? Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the Federal Government would also support a high speed rail project in Alberta.
So, given that it is in the interests of both the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada, not to mention the travelling public, what’s holding up a Calgary-Edmonton high speed train?