Environmental benefits may help put high-speed rail link on track: Premier

In an effort to reduce Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions, Premier Ed Stelmach has hinted that a multibillion-dollar high-speed rail link between Calgary and Edmonton may be on the horizon.


Dreams of building a bullet train between the two major centres have floated for decades, but Stelmach believes new environmental regulations are making the project more feasible.


Last week, Canada agreed to a new international climate change treaty at an environmental summit, including plans to make huge cuts to greenhouse gases.


In a year-end interview with Metro, Stelmach said a bullet train could be part of Alberta’s overall strategy in reducing carbon emissions to comply with the new legislation.

“Obviously, if we’re going to do anything significant we’ll have to look at different transportation mechanisms, different policies, so rail will definitely be a component of that,” he said.

The system should also be linked with current light rail and bus systems in both cities, he said, but he’s awaiting final details from a rail feasibility study, set to be released early next year.

In August, Metro exclusively reported that preliminary results from the study found that a bullet train is economically feasible.

The study sampled potential rail users by interviewing commuters along the Queen Elizabeth 2 highway, in airports and bus terminals, as well as monitoring traffic flow.

Early data from the sample group found a strong market for high-speed rail, even with the expected price of transit fare, according to Alex Metcalf of Transportation Economics and Management Systems, who conducted the study for the province.

Jerry Bellikka, a spokesman for the province’s transportation department, said they are still crunching the numbers from the final report, but past estimates for building any kind of bullet train project range from $4 to $12 billion.

Liberal critic Hugh MacDonald said the project should be built within 10 years, agreeing with the premier that rail systems have huge environmental benefits.

“You either build a rail link or add a lane in both directions to Highway 2,” he said. “At least this way you reduce emissions and all the car accidents.”


Gathering steam

  • The province has already secured land for expected transit stops, and a Calgary company has expressed interest in building such a project.