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Our View (Editorial)
High speed rail back on

reprinted from Red Deer Advocate (Greg Neiman) July 7, 2010
By the time our school-aged children start worrying about their own retirement funds, Alberta's population is expected to be around six million. Three quarters of that population will live on the Edmonton-Calgary corridor. Since we happen to occupy the middle space, we'll call it the Red Deer corridor and claim the two big cities as suburbs of us.

All of that isn't quite as fanciful as it sounds. If we look at one cornerstone of the province's recently-announced 40-year transportation plan, Red Deer could become the central hub of a transportation network through which a whole lot of people and light freight will pass.

You guessed it, high speed rail is back on. Not the front burner, mind you, but the on-again, off-again issue is back to a low simmer.

Naturally, when the province mentioned it was taking a new long-term look at transportation, the Van Horne Institute, based in Calgary, was pleased. They released a study back in 2004 that said high-speed rail along the Red Deer corridor was not only feasible, but necessary for our future economic health.

"Transportation is a key enabler of economic prosperity," said their CEO Peter Wallis.

Which is about what you'd expect the CEO of a transportation think tank to say.

Upgrade that low simmer a little bit. High-speed rail was also identified as a priority over the next three years, in the province's updated business plan earlier this year.

The province's 40-year plan is still in the "planning to plan" stage -- and you know how these things go round and round.

But there are immediate pressures in both Edmonton and Calgary for major upgrades to their urban transportation networks. You can't help but notice all the light rail and freeway construction in both centres when you visit.

And if Alberta is to be anything more than the spot on the map where the oil enters the pipeline, these are the improvements we need. And -- as the Van Horne Institute points out -- not 40 years from now, but now.

Thus far, opposition comment has come from Calgary Liberal MLA Darshan Kang. For his part, he wants us to remember that a major transportation initiative in his city (a tunnel for the Calgary airport), did not get provincial backing.

He says that a provincial government that can't fix today's problems can hardly be expected to solve tomorrow's. Fair enough.

But he has it wrong when he says that the government isn't paying attention to infrastructure problems. At least, that's if the process recently begun is given a chance to actually become something.

Of course, public consultation will again be part of the process. It seems you can't say the words "high speed rail" without starting an argument.

But people who want to take sides on this and any other transportation issue should really keep the year 2050, not 2010, in mind.

Hwy 2 can get pretty hairy with today's traffic load. What will it be like when there will basically be nearly the entire population of Alberta today added on, who want access?

As well, consider that more and more of those people will be doing something other than working in the energy business. That's in the plan, too.

Manufacturing, processing, design, research -- things we can export in addition to energy -- these are the things we have always said we want to grow in our economy.

These things require the movement of goods and people.

And Red Deer, with our corridor, will be right in the middle of it.

News articles related to high speed rail
(Forth Junction supports the concept of a future rapid passenger rail service connecting major destinations as efficient and enviro-friendly but is not directly advocating for any specific high speed rail proposal):

       News article: Talk of high-speed rail line picking up steam?
(Red Deer Advocate Dec.2013)
       News article: City touting high-speed rail stop at downtown station
(Red Deer Advocate Jan.2013)
       News article: Fast-tracking bullet train a ticket to nowhere
(Red Deer Advocate Dec.2011)
       Commentary: Steam good alternative for high-speed rail link
(Red Deer Advocate Apr.2011)
       News article: Business officials laud rail proposals
(Red Deer Advocate Apr.2011)
       News article: Chamber pressing high-speed rail plan
(Red Deer Advocate Jan.2011)
       Editorial: Train's future needs path
(Red Deer Advocate Nov.2010)
       News article: Project creates issues for rural residents
(Red Deer Advocate Nov.2010)
       News article: Rail plan returns
(Red Deer Advocate July 2010)
       News article: Get moving on high-speed rail link: expert
(Red Deer Advocate June 2010)
       News article: Rural groups want high-speed rail study
(Red Deer Advocate March 2010)
       News article: Political will lags behind train debate
(Red Deer Advocate Oct.2009)
       News article: Province offers update on high speed rail (Red Deer Express July 2009)
       News article: Company pushes for high speed rail (Red Deer Express April 2008)
         News article: Rail group projects service in five years (Red Deer Advocate April 2008)

Rise and Fall of Passenger Rail in the C&E Corridor

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