Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Alberta sees LRT, not high speed rail, as provincial priority

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Light rail transit expansion for Calgary and Edmonton trumps provincial needs for high speed rail, according to Alberta provincial government officials, despite rising clamor for linking the two cities with intercity service.

The stance follows the release Monday of a feasibility and ridership study, conducted last year, showing HSR service between the province’s two largest cities, with travel times of one hour, would cost between C$3 billion and C$20 billion depending on the type of train chosen. The report projected ridership of up to 4 million per year on trains traveling 300km/h (186 mph).

"At this time, when we're a little short of cash, show me the money. That's what I would have to say because we've got a lot of other needs that will have to come first," said Alberta Finance Minister Iris Evans.

Provincial officials have indicated a preference for a public-private partnership, including a design-build-operate-maintain (DBOM) option. Under such an arrangement, Alberta likely would acquire rights-of-way needed for any HSR service.

Edmonton’s light rail system, which opened in 1978, was thefirst “new” LRT system to debut in North America, while Calgary’s C-Train LRT,which began revenue service in 1981, was second.

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