Sunday, March 23, 2008

Alberta is Ready for High Speed Rail

High speed rail between at least Edmonton and Calgary is an idea whose time has come. Perhaps extending it to Fort McMurray and even Banff could be considered now too. I know Ed Stelmach likes the idea. Heather Douglas the CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce has a well written piece on the concept in the Calgary Herald today.

It makes much more economic, social and ecological sense than adding two more highway lanes to the current highway between Edmonton and Calgary. That old-school “solution” will only add to problems when you consider all aspects of the pressures of growth in our "Corridor" and the transportation and other challenges that is causing

There are feasibility studies already done on high speed rail and some more detailed study efforts are underway and soon to be completed. High speed rail is green, clean, safe, quiet and quick. It is audacious enough that it triggers the imagination of forward thinking progressive Albertans too. I have been a fan of high speed rail in the Corridor since the late 1970’s and early 80’s. It was before its time then but not any more. Let’s get on with it.


  1. Anonymous10:45 pm

    If it makes economic sense, I am all for it. If we are doing it in the name of reducing GHGs and saving the planet (and it doesn't make economic sense), then I am totally against it. Why not simply put a green toll on the highway and buy carbon credits from Russia?

  2. Anonymous9:43 am

    There are many other areas to spend money - education, health care, infrastructure within the cities. Thsi high-speed rail was NOT campaigned for during the election and it would be misleading if Eddy passed legislation on this huge project now. Why not user pay? Let's start collecting cash now on the highway.

    This is the problem when you have a liberal commenting on public spending. The only question is - is it a good thing? That is too simple. There are various divergent needs and wants in our society and you cannot spend on all those areas.

    Look federally - the Liberals have promised so much and they don't have any priorities.

  3. Stelmach said during the campaign that the government was accumulating the land for the HSR right of way and he commented on it numberous times. The GREENs had HSR directly in their platform.

    You are right about a party having too many policy priorities to the point that they don't appear to stand for anything.

    The opposite can be true too. In the 2004 election Harper had a new policy announcement every day of the campaign. Once elected he said forget what I said I would do in the election and instead said he would concentrate on only 5 priorities. One of them (GST reduction t 5%) was so simple minded and generally acknowledged as stupid that it hardly qualified as a policy initiative.

    His major policy effort on accountability has been a disaster. He passed the new Accountability Act and now delays its pronouncement so major aspects of the new law are not yet applicable. This way he continues to abuse the levers of power just like Mulroney and Chretien did.

  4. Anonymous11:17 am

    The voters in the byelection in Vancouver sure don't seem to have the same viewpoint as you! Funny how you didn't comment on the results:( lol.

  5. What is there to comment on re Vancouver. A very good Con candidate came in a close second to a Liberal in an urban BC riding with a low voter turnout where the Cons got out their vote and the Liberals survived.

    At the end the Liberals won again. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

  6. Too bad Mandel doesn't support a high speed rail link between Calgary and Edmonton.

  7. I think Mayor Mandel worries that HSR would pull $$$ away form other projects needed in the provinces's municipalities.

    It has to be new money - not trade-off funds. Trade off funds against more lanes on the QE2 is ok but not other projects.

    Oberg used to play that trick. Should not happen under Stelmach.

  8. Anonymous1:28 pm

    High speed rail from Calgary to Edmonton is a colossal waste of money. There's only ONE place in North America that has a bullet train - NYC to DC and they have many times more people than we do.

    This would be a huge white elephant.

  9. Yes and 150 years ago there was only a horse trial between Edmonton and Calgary and to have one of those again would also be a white elephant.

    Some folks live their lives in quiet despiration and only look in the rearview mirror while stifling any glimmer of imagination.

    We can build the HSR now and solve many problems current and emerging. If we wait we will have to displace lots of people and expropriate lots of property in what will then be an overpopulated corridor.

    We can see that coming and we can afford it now and when you look at it on a life cycle and full cost accounting basis it will save money, improve public services and safety while enhancing the environment - especially considering what the implications are for more car traffic if we do not do it.

  10. Summing up the argument into for or against high speed rail is like saying you are either for or against better health care.

    What is high speed rail? are you talking existing wheel to rail? are you talking bullet trains? or are you supporting a mag-lev? You need to make that clear prior to claiming that HSR is environmentally friendly, and you also need to make it clear before talking about whether people will use it.

    The feasibility studies show two things conclusively: first: people will only ride it if the trip takes less than 90 minutes. Second: people want to pay around $50.00 for one-way travel.

    You take both those things into account, plus the enormous capital cost to build the required track, and you better expand your comparison from another lane on the QEII my friend. For you are not talking a billion dollars, you are talking 12-15 billion. That's a league Alberta is not yet in.

    I'm all for the dream, but i also live in reality. If you say let's get one with it....i hope it's a long long long road ahead.

  11. All good questions Dave and they all need to be addressed going forward.

    But where do you get the $12-15B cost figure from? I have not seen that in any reports...even for mag-lev. Give use your authority for that.

    This will have to be done for more than $50 one-way and with gas prices about to skyrocket that may not be the automoble fuel costs never mind all the other related costs of driving.

    I like you approach...lots of questions need ot be asked - so lets get asking them.

  12. The $12 billion comes from the cost of land acquisition ($1-2billion) based on right of way need considering a mag-lev cannot have severe turns. The rest of the amount comes from the cost of building. Erecting a 16 foot high cement track with the electrical component built into the track for a span of 300 kms is VERY expensive. Just estimate the cost of buiding a 10 foot long, 16 foot high structure and do the math.

    Fortunately the province owns land space for the stations in edmonton and calgary, however how does a 500 km/hr train get downtown? either above or below ground....that is expensive too. This price is also estimated at current costs. It is not exact by any means, but it is a rough estimate.

    Also, there is the question of stops, how many? The minimum i believe is 5 (dwntwn Ed, Airport, Red Deer, Cal-airport, Dwntown Calg) if every stop is 5 minutes, that is 25 minutes to add to the trip. Therefore, to keep under the 90- minutes, it has to be a mag-lev, in order to do the trip in under an hour.

    It can be done, and whether it should be done can be debated. However at the end of the day, it is expensive!

  13. More good comments - thx.

  14. Anonymous4:18 pm

    It wouldn't cost much more than giving each Albertan $400.00, as Klein did. And, would certainly provide a better legacy. I say Alberta ought to build a high-speed train at least from Edmonton to Calgary.