A Vancouver business man is hoping to use crowdfunding to get his idea for high-speed rail service between Calgary and Banff on track.

Greg Dansereau recently founded HSBanff, a private not-for-profit group aimed at building a rail line that would take travellers from Calgary’s airport to the mountain town in as little as 26 minutes on a train going up to 400 kilometres per hour.

“But if the train stops in Canmore or anywhere else along the route, it could take longer than that. So worst case we’ve put out is 45 minutes,” said Dansereau, who grew up in Alberta.

The group’s first goal is to crowdsource the $300,000 needed for the initial feasibility and environmental studies.

“That’s only a portion of it. It’s a multibillion-dollar project. So at some point we would need a large amount of capital investment.”

Details of the route would depend on the feasibility study, but Dansereau said it’s envisioned travelling down the middle of the highway, with some sections elevated.  

Small footprint wanted

“We don’t want to expand the footprint of the highway at all,” he said. “So no more impact to the park.”

Early reaction to the idea has been mixed, Dansereau said.

“But for the most part, very, very positive support so far,” he said.  

HSBanff has had some preliminary discussions with government officials, he said.

“I think there’s mixed feelings with the government. Part of the issue there again is if a private company comes in, builds a rail that’s not successful, are they then responsible for taking it over and maintaining it. And what’s the cost of that. So, there’s some apprehension there,” he said. 

Ettore Iannacito, who is in charge of transportation for the Calgary Regional Partnership, says commuter trains between communities like Calgary, Banff and Cochrane are decades away.

Project raises questions

"Right now our focus is on regional transit, like having a nice type of bus connecting the communities, like a double-decker bus," he said.

The Town of Banff won't say whether its residents should take the proposal seriously. It says it has not been able to learn enough about the high-speed train idea to know whether it's a worthwhile project.

Peter Wallis, with the Van Horne Institute of public policy, education, and research in transportation, says the proposal raises some questions.

He says $300,000 may not be enough for a proper feasibility study and there also has to be a traffic study done to see if there are enough vehicles on the road to warrant the project.

Wallis also had concerns with building the train line in the middle of the highway, as there would have to be barriers in place to protect the train from highway accidents, but still provide access for emergency vehicles.