VSALGARY — Proponents of a $1.5 billion passenger train project that would connect Calgary to Banff say they are waiting for a yes or no from the Alberta government before moving forward with the project’s next steps.
Liricon Capital Inc., the company behind the proposed rail link between the tourist mecca of the Rockies and Calgary International Airport, said Monday it had not yet received a response to its proposal that the province would commit $30 million a year to the project.
Liricon managing partner Jan Waterous said under her firm’s unsolicited proposal, the provincial contribution of $30 million would not go towards capital costs – which would be covered half by the Bank. of Canada’s infrastructure and the other half covered by Liricon itself, its project partner Plenary Associates, and debt financing. Instead, the $30 million a year over about 50 years would help cover the project’s mortgage, making the province the ultimate owner of the train.
But Waterous – who, along with her husband Adam, owns the Mount Norquay ski resort, as well as the long-term lease of the Banff train station – said Liricon is still unaware of the province’s intentions. She said the project cannot proceed to its next phase – detailed design work and intensive consultation with communities along the route – without more clarity.
“What we need at this point is a nod from the provincial government,” Waterous told reporters after speaking to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.
“We were hoping to hear we were ready to go from the province a few weeks ago…we’re ready to roll as soon as we get their go-ahead.”
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has previously spoken positively of the merits of the proposed scheme, but resigned as leader of the United Conservative Party last month, although he will remain premier until a new leader is chosen. A date for a leadership vote has yet to be set.
Rob Williams, press secretary to Transport Minister Rajan Sawhney, said in an email on Monday that the proposal was still under consideration.
“The Government of Alberta continues to evaluate all aspects of the proposed project, but has not made a decision on whether to provide financial support,” Williams said.
Liricon’s proposed vision involves a European-style tourist train that would also serve local commuters, with service in seven communities as well as a stop in downtown Calgary. Ticket revenue is expected to generate about $30 million annually, with net ticket costs to Albertans about $20 and out-of-province users paying more.
The project would be built within the existing Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. freight corridor, which means it would require twinning of existing track. Waterous said it would take about three years after receiving the green light to complete the project.
Municipal leaders in the region, including the mayors of Calgary and Banff, praised the passenger rail proposal for its potential to improve connectivity in the region while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Liricon’s own estimates suggest that a passenger rail line could attract 25% of daily visitors to Banff, reducing the impact of personal vehicles on the national park.
Other local organizations, including Tourism Calgary and major airlines that serve Calgary International Airport, have also supported the project.
But environmentalists have already raised questions about the impact increased train travel could have on wildlife in the area, as well as the potential environmental damage that could occur if the rail line proves popular and increases ridership. overall park.
After years of deficits, Alberta is widely expected to post a multi-billion dollar surplus this year (perhaps as high as $10 billion) thanks to soaring oil prices in 2022. This could make provincial funding for the Banff passenger rail project more likely.
“It certainly makes us optimistic,” Waterous said of the booming commodity price environment and the recent reversal in the province’s financial health.
“But I think the most important thing the Alberta government is hearing isn’t $30 million per se — they have to look at the train in terms of what it’s going to do to build the province’s economy.”
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 6, 2022.
Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press