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Province to explore feasibility of passenger railway from Calgary to Banff

Banff’s mayor discusses relaunch strategy
WATCH (May 26): Banff Mayor Karen Sorenson joins Global News Morning Calgary live via Skype to discuss the town’s relaunch strategy for next month.

The provincial government is looking to make travelling from Calgary to Banff’s iconic Rocky Mountains a little easier with the possible implementation of a passenger rail service.

The government announced on Tuesday that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Canada Infrastructure Bank to assess the feasibility of creating a railway that would run from Calgary International Airport to the Town of Banff.

READ MORE: Alberta tour operators prepare for a year of losses

Transportation Minister Ric McIver said this project would help boost the local tourism industry.

“We look forward to learning more about this exciting project and hearing from our community partners about how this opportunity can support our tourism industry and get our economy back on track,” McIver said in a news release on Tuesday.

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The CIB uses federal funding to attract private sector and institutional investment into revenue-generating projects that are in the public interest.

Banff’s mayor discusses relaunch strategy
Banff’s mayor discusses relaunch strategy

According to the provincial government, in 2017, Alberta saw $8.9 billion in tourism expenditures, with around 23,000 vehicles travelling on Highway 1 — in both directions — at the Banff National Park gates every day.

Officials said this project could help create new jobs in the province while boosting international interest in the local tourism sector.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: What does Banff look like without international tourism?

“At a time in our history when many tourism economies have been effectively devastated by COVID-19 travel restrictions, I believe there is no better time to consider this strategic investment in our tourism industry and give hope to our industry operators than right now,” MLA for Banff-Kananaskis, Miranda Rosin, said.

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“The potential for a beautiful passenger rail service running through the Rocky Mountains poses a tremendous opportunity to attract international visitors and grow our tourism economy here in Alberta.”

Banff’s economy devastated by COVID-19 crisis
Banff’s economy devastated by COVID-19 crisis

The Calgary-Banff rail project would span 130 kilometres and could potentially involve six stops, including downtown Calgary, Cochrane, Morley and Canmore.

Officials noted that the service could run up to eight trips per day between the two communities and would have the capability of running an express service from the airport to Calgary’s downtown every 20 minutes.

The cost of the feasibility study will be paid for by the CIB.

“We are pleased to be building a strong partnership with the government of Alberta,” CIB board chair Michael Sabia said.

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“The Calgary-Banff Rail project is the first of many potential projects for the CIB in Alberta.”