December 10, 2013 9:13 pm
Updated: December 11, 2013 12:41 am

Alberta high-speed rail discussion sparked again

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EDMONTON – Several years after the government released its last report on the issue, a high-speed rail between Alberta’s two largest cities is being talked about again.

“In my view at least, the government shouldn’t be paying to build a high-speed rail line,” said Transportation Minister Ric McIver on Tuesday.

“It would be a matter of whether it makes sense to let somebody in the private sector to do that, and allow them, allow government to accumulate a right-of-way so they can do it.

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While debate over a possible high-speed rail may be picking up steam, McIver hopes to see a rounded view of how Albertans feel about the potential of a high-speed rail.

“If there was enough information to make a decision, we’d make a decision,” said McIver.

He said the committee would review of the research done so far on the issue.

“It will be interesting if you take it to an all-party committee, which I think by extension I think will give members of the public that want to feed into those committee members their opinions.”

NDP MLA David Eggen sits on the all-party committee and suggests a trial run be implemented to see if there’s a real demand for the rail, as opposed to a perceived one.

“It’s very expensive. So, I really don’t favour seeing much public money going towards this. And I wonder if there are private investors that really could do it without public money, quite frankly.”

“Let’s be realistic,” said Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, “the last time this was considered, it was an up to $20 billion investment. To me, it makes more sense to invest in LRT in Calgary and Edmonton, invest in commuter rail for some of our satellite communities outside our two major centres.”

The mayors of both Edmonton and Calgary echo that sentiment.

“If we’re in the rail business, what we really need to do is complete the LRT network at both ends so that you can actually be car-free from any major origin in either city to any major destination in either city.”

“I don’t mind the province studying high-speed rail. I think they’ll find that it’s most effective if you can be car-free with LRT at both ends. So, I’d like them to commit resources, as well, for funding LRT expansion in both cities so that we can actually – when the time comes for high-speed rail – link all those major points.”

“It is many, many billions of dollars,” added Naheed Nenshi. “And, certainly far, far more people would use an investment in LRT in Calgary and Edmonton of that amount than would ever use this bullet train. So if it’s the bullet train or LRT, I’d pick LRT. If we can do both, let’s do both.”

A 2009 study suggested a high-speed rail could cost between $3 billion and $20 billion, depending on the technology used in the project.

With files from Vinesh Pratap, Global News

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