EDMONTON – A report says Alberta should not invest in a high-speed rail link between Edmonton and Calgary but instead focus on expanding light-rail transit in the two cities.
The report from the legislature’s standing committee on Alberta’s economic future says there are not enough people living in the Edmonton-Calgary corridor to make a rail line profitable.
It says the committee heard submissions that, to be profitable, a high-speed train should have a ridership of about eight million to 10 million people a year.
But estimates for an Edmonton-Calgary route predict 1.3 million to 5.4 million riders in 2021. It’s anticipated that could grow to between 2.8 million and 10.7 million over the next three decades.
The committee also heard how much of the congestion on the main highway right now occurs around the two cities and that investing in better urban transportation might solve that.
The report does recommend that the government start buying land for a possible future transportation corridor.
The report also suggests that the government create rules that would allow private investors to raise capital for a high-speed rail line.
“It’s a good idea but not … at the present time,” said committee chairman and Calgary legislature member Moe Amery. “But I think there was overwhelming support for starting to think seriously about it and urging the government to start preparing for it.”
Amery said rapid growth in the province still isn’t enough to justify a high-speed line.
“Even though we’re growing, and we’re growing very rapidly, we still in the opinion of the experts don’t have enough population to make it economically viable.”
— With files from CHED