High-speed rail link examined by Alberta

A new report may put Albertans a little closer to hopping on a high-speed train between Calgary and Edmonton.
The preliminary plan for a high-speed rail network as seen in a report prepared for the Alberta government. (TEMS)

A new report may put Albertans a little closer to hopping on a high-speed train between Calgary and Edmonton.

The provincial government-commissioned report released Monday concludes that a high-speed rail network would be well used, generate up to $33 billion in economic benefits and create thousands of jobs.

The report will be examined by a legislative committee in September.

Transportation Minister Luc Ouellette said Monday the Calgary-Edmonton corridor is one of the few places in Canada where a high-speed train would be faster than an airplane ride.

Depending on the type, the train could travel between 125 km/h to 300 km/h, allowing people to travel between the two cities in as little as about an hour, according to the report. It could cost anywhere between $3 billion to $20 billion to build.

Ouellette said a high-speed train between Calgary and Edmonton could be completely funded by private companies and the government's only role would be to buy the needed land.

"If they don't believe that the studies that have been done and the reports that are there are good enough for private investment, it probably isn't good enough, for my feelings, for the taxpayers to foot the bill either," he said.

It would probably be at least five years before construction could start if the government decided to move ahead, he added.

The report found that 10 million people travelled between Edmonton and Calgary in 2006: 91 per cent travelled by car or truck, six per cent went by air and three per cent by bus.

"The biggest thing that you can see through the report is if you don't have a fast enough train, people aren't going to ride it. The faster the train, the higher the ridership goes up," said Ouellette.

Five years ago, a similar report with similar findings was prepared by the Van Horne Institute, a Calgary-based transportation group.

"I think there's enough ammunition now for people to sit down and understand the exact ramifications, the implications both financially socio-politically and make some decision," said the group's president, Peter Wallis.

With files from The Candian Press