News & Reviews News Wire Alberta government turns down Calgary-Banff rail proposal

Alberta government turns down Calgary-Banff rail proposal

By Trains Staff | July 7, 2022

| Last updated on February 24, 2024

Transportation Minister says risks are too high and proposal is unrealistic

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Rendering of three-car passenger train at station in mountains
A rendering shows a train for the proposed Calgary-Banff passenger service at the station in Banff. The government of Alberta has passed on support for the proposal in its current form. Liricon Capital

CALGARY, Alberta — The Alberta government is not willing to support a proposed Calgary-Banff passenger rail operation in its current form, saying it presents too great a financial risk.

The Globe and Mail reports that Alberta Transportation Minister Prasad Panda says the plan underestimates the capital costs and the annual financial contribution from the province, overestimates ridership, and has an unrealistic estimate of when the service could begin operation.

Liricon Capital Inc., which owns a Banff ski resort and holds a long-term lease on the city’s train station, has estimated the project will cost $1.5 billion. It has asked Alberta to provide up to $30 million in annual support, but said recently that might be unnecessary based on new ridership figures [see “Proposed Calgary-Banff rail line seeks support …,” Trains News Wire, June 28, 2022]. Liricon says the system could attract up to 11 million riders annually if Parks Canada adopts policies which would encourage use of the rail system.

Panda says he likes the concept of the rail system, but as currently presented, “it’s passing on all the risk to Alberta taxpayers.” He said his office has sent a letter to Liricon and financial partner Plenary Americas, saying the government wants “a realistic proposal” and will reconsider its position if the companies assume the financial risks and raise private capital.”

6 thoughts on “Alberta government turns down Calgary-Banff rail proposal

  1. Calgary to Edmonton would undoubtedly represent a larger, better market for a starter rail line in a province that lost nearly all its passenger rail service 32 years ago.

  2. Good move by the Albera government. 11,000,000 people annually? That’s about a third of the passengers that Amtrak carries for the entire United States. And the costs for these projects are almost always understated. The vast majority of people will always prefer to drive especially in a resort area regardless of the traffic. What happens when they get to Banff? Do they have to take a bus or a car to the slopes? This would make it a three-seat ride, with skis. And don’t even think about what the NIMBYs and environmentalists will do to this proposal. Maybe government people are finally starting to question some of these silly proposals.

    1. The outfit proposing the service owns a resort in the Banff area, they have a 30 year lease and run the station that already exists. Banff National Park itself gets 4 million visitors a year…and that’s probably all by road vehicle only. It’s not pie in the sky, it is reasonable. I’m quite sure they’re not talking about building an entirely new railway line…only expanding the capacity on the existing one with the exception of the airport connection. Not sure what the Parks Canada suggestion is, but I think it would involve increasing the costs to motorists and having a discount for those that took the train, and used transit to tour the park(and nearby Jasper National Park as well). Canada doesn’t have the same problem with NIMBY’s and environmentalists as we do here in the States…as a matter of fact, I’m sure the environmentalists would be 75% behind this project(there’s always some idiots out there).

  3. Respectfully Charles, The Crown Jewel of the Canadian Park system is overwhelmed. 90 minutes to get through the community. After you get to the Parks the experience is ruined by cars.

    If memory serves a similar problem was noted a the Grand Canyon. Americans have a fixation with the automobile, highways and hydrocarbon.

    1. Take a look at the rendering, Terry. Proposed trains run on hydrocarbons.

      Train goes where? To the Calgary airport. Airplanes fly on hydrocarbon.

  4. Those of us who support realistic improvements to passenger rail service can get very irritated at pie – in – the – sky proposals that vastly understate costs and vastly overestimate ridership. Anybody can draw a line on a map between two points and – shazam – the magician pulls dozens of passenger trains out of his hat.

    For an example on how to do it in the real world, see pages 26 – 33 of August TRAINS MAGAZINE, which is George Hamlin’s article on passenger rail improvements in Virginia — recent and near future. Sorry George, it’s not the best written article I’ve seen from you, but I get the point. The point is, it can be done and it is getting done in Virginia.

    I actually know a Virginian who rides those trains. Not so long ago, those trains didn’t exist; now they do.

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