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News articles about high speed rail (rapid transit) proposals
that would go through Central Alberta:


 

July 17, 2019, Red Deer Advocate (Mamta Lulla)
It's the need for speed
Edmonton-Red Deer-Calgary Bullet Train waiting for provincial approval
  
A high-speed train project between Edmonton and Calgary, proposed in April 2018, is in the hands of the United Conservative government.
   Sebastien Gendron, CEO of tech startup TransPod, says the $6-billion project, funded entirely by the private sector, is in its initial stages.
   The Canadian tech company has asked the UCP government for a commitment for the project before securing $100 million from the private sector.
   The initial investment would be used for 10 kilometres of track, located between Olds and Didsbury, along the QEII Highway near highways 27 and 582.
   "So the former government gave us 10 kilometres of land, and on our side, we have investors who have told us of the intention to finance this track.
  "What they're asking of me, is to have the government (on board first)," said Gendron Tuesday.
   If the project proceeds, the bullet-type train, called the TransPod Hyperloop, would cut the travel time between Calgary and Edmonton from three hours to about half an hour.
   Gendron expects to hear back from the provincial government this fall.
   Provided the Alberta government supports the project, the CEO said he will secure the initial $100 million in financing next year and launch the administrative work for the initiative.
   The goal is to start construction on the 10-kilometre line in 2021 and finish it by 2023. Two years will then be dedicated to safety and testing and approvals to meet Transport Canada criteria.
   Construction of the full project is expected to start in 2025, and the train would be operational by 2030.
   "But before we start the 10 kilometres, we need to have the commitment. That's if (technology) is working, we can build the full 300 kilometres between the two cities.
   "So we need that decision by the government," he explained. "For our investors, we want to mitigate the risk. They want to make sure the government won't change their mind later on."
   Faster than airline travel, the TransPod tube is a fully-electric mass transportation system. The 1,000 km/h train would make four stops throughout the 300-kilometre line: downtown Calgary, Calgary International Airport, Red Deer and Edmonton International Airport.
   The train would operate much like an aircraft, in a low-pressure vacuum tube.
   "You need to remove most of the air, to avoid friction, and it's how you can achieve (speed) similar to an aircraft, thanks to magnetic propulsion and levitation systems," he said.
   "So in theory, it's a bullet train, but looks like and aircraft without wings."
   A report released Tuesday proposed a high-speed rail link connecting Vancouver, Seattle and Portland. The service would reportedly cut the travel time between each city to under an hour and boost the economy of the region.
   The TransPod would boost Alberta's economy and create jobs, Gendron says.
   Gendron said there is enough ridership to justify infrastructure between Calgary and Edmonton, adding the TransPod would provide safety to drivers, protect from harsh Alberta winters, diversify the economy and bring optimism to the region.
   "In Canada, there are two economically viable corridors: Toronto-Montreal and Calgary-Edmonton," he said.
   The project website says the overall capacity of the line is flexible and adjustable to cargo transportation. Freight and passenger pods would follow each other in the tubes, with freight travelling during off-peak hours.
Photo: If the TransPod Hyperloop goes through, the bullet-type train will cut travel time between Calgary to
  Edmonton from three hours to about half hour. Contributed photo.



March 8, 2016, Red Deer Advocate (Doug Firby, Troy Media)
Comment
High time for high-speed rail
   My recent tour of the remarkable Canadian Museum of Rail Travel in Cranbrook, B.C., got me wondering why all of Canada cannot once again have a viable rail passenger service.
   The museum contains a collection of dozens of rail cars from the past 100+ years in various states of repair. Collectively, they deliver a powerful glimpse into what life must have been like during the glory days of rail travel. Some of the partially restored cars (which show the catastrophic results of attempts to "modernize") also provide a pretty clear sense of why passenger rail travel went into decline.
   Today, Via's passenger rail in Canada primarily serves the Ottawa-Montreal-Toronto-Windsor corridors. It makes sense to have it concentrated there because the area's relative population density makes it easier to get enough paying passengers to make a profit. In less dense areas -- such as the sprawling prairies or even the twisting, winding interior of B.C. -- finding enough riders to make a buck is a much tougher task.
   Unless, that is, you market the train as a high-end product. In the West, you can take a passenger train through the mountains on the Rocky Mountaineer. Trouble is, the luxury rail service is beyond the reach of us mere commoners. The seven day/six night Canadian Rockies Highlights tour, for example, starts at $2,999 on the company's website. Prices go up -- way up -- from there. It may be a fair deal for tourists, but doesn't work so well for us locals.
   I haven't used the train a lot in my life but it seems each time I did it turned into a pleasant, and at times even memorable, experience. I remember one long ride with a co-worker from Windsor to Ottawa years ago. It was a chance to relax, catch up on reading, gaze out the window and generally chill out. It was restorative.
   I also remember recently taking an old communist-era train from Berlin to Warsaw. Although the train was dated and dowdy, the ride had a magical quality to it as I chatted with my spouse and friends, ate, dozed and watched the scenery roll by outside the window.
   Via's President and CEO, Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, is pushing the idea of a revived national rail passenger service. Via is doing not too badly, running on 12,500 kilometres of track and transporting about four million passengers a year. But could it do better?
   From an environmental perspective, it seems to make sense. By Via's calculations, when a train is running with a full passenger load its carbon footprint per traveler is about 40 per cent of what it would be if they were in a car. And that same footprint is just one-tenth what it would be if that person chose to ride a plane.
   Ha! You may respond -- planes are faster. In fact, that's not always true. For example, many people I know make frequent business trips between Calgary and Edmonton. Figuring the time it takes to get to the airport, park, check in, clear security, wait to board and then take a $60 taxi to downtown at the other end, you can drive to your destination faster.
   Even a standard passenger train could beat a plane on that route. However, there is growing interest in exploring a high-speed version, like those found in parts of Japan and Europe. The catch is the cost: Most recent estimates put construction costs somewhere between $2.6 and $7 billion, depending on the type of technology used. Annual operating costs of a high-speed rail line are put between $88 million and $129 million.
   For a proposition like that to make sense, you need to find a lot of passengers willing to pay fares that are not far removed from airfare. Let's face it -- a modern train won't be as cheap as bus fare.
   Would you be willing to pay that much? For business travel, paying a higher fare but getting to enjoy the benefits of a modern train, with such amenities as WiFi connectivity that let's you use your time well, could actually improve productivity. At the same time, think of the stress you would spare those same employees from not having to empty their pockets at security and getting to step off a train downtown, rather than 25 kilometres away from a city's core.
   Green. Chill. Business friendly. Maybe the renaissance of the passenger train is nigh.


May 17, 2014, Red Deer Advocate (Josh Aldrich)
Committee puts brakes on Alberta's
high-speed rail line
 
   The wait for a high-speed rail line will be extended for the Edmonton and Calgary corridor.
   An all-party legislature committee is recommending the provincial government not to invest in the project at this time, but to begin acquiring the land needed for it.
   A feasibility draft report, leaked to the Calgary Herald on Thursday, says the province is not big enough to make the multi-billion-dollar project financially viable.
   The committee met on Friday and made alterations to two of the recommendations in the report and added a fifth recommendation to open the door for private groups to proceed with the project if funds can be raised.
   The report should be finalized soon, but will not officially be tabled when the legislature is sitting in October.
   The high-speed line has been hotly discussed for the last 20 years but to this point a long-term transportation infrastructure strategy has not been set in place, one of the points put forth by the study and the committee.
   "The recommendation is to create a strategic plan around a transportation and utility corridor," said committee co-chairman and Lacombe-Ponoka Wildrose MLA Rod Fox.
   He added that there was no specific population size listed in the report that Alberta needs to reach to make the line feasible, just that it's not big enough right now.
   For Red Deer, a high-speed rail line with a stop in the city would be a boon for the local economy and future development. At a February meeting in Red Deer as part of the feasibility study, John Sennema, the city's manager of Land and Economic Development, talked about Red Deer becoming a provincial headquarters for high-speed transportation.
   Chamber of Commerce executive director Tim Creedon said Friday morning that a high-speed line is critical to Red Deer's future, but understands the time line for its construction is well down the road.
   "High-speed rail would play a significant role in economic development of Red Deer over a long term period," he said. "We are very aware of the fact that developing anything as large as this piece of infrastructure would be a multi-decade operation. It's very difficult for us to say 'X' number of years, because there is so much work that has to happen before something like this could be financed and before any building work happens."
   Other recommendations included the identification of a route for a transportation utility corridor that would accommodate a potential high-speed railway and to begin acquiring the land and working with affected First Nations.
   Former Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling said earlier this year that rising costs of land could be a major obstacle in the development of the line, especially if it is put off longer.
   Another stumbling block is how the line fits in with the long term transportation plans for Alberta's two major centres.
   "One of the recommendations did focus on the build out of the light rail transit and regional transportation networks," said Fox.
   Though the specifics were not discussed, the committee did leave the door open with their discussions for private investors to fund the program by adding a fifth recommendation to the report.
   "It was an interesting debate on the motion, it was more about what regulatory requirements would need to be in place for that to be an option," said Fox. "There would have to be a study done on that."
   He says it's too early to speculate on the cost, that this was just an exercise to look at the feasibility of a rail line at this time.


March 20, 2014, Red Deer Advocate (Evan Bedford commentary on Energy & Ecology)
Time to think about future transportation
   "What if the FAA required that jet aircraft be able to survive crashes into the ground?" - Eric McCaughrin
   McCaughrin is referring to U.S. government regulations on passenger rail cars, which force them to resemble "bank vaults on wheels."
   They are twice as heavy as their European counterparts because of the slight chance that they might crash into a freight train ... even if (like the Long Island Commuter Railroad) there are never any freight trains on the tracks.
  I was thinking about passenger rail car weights, because I recently attended the public input session on a possible high-speed rail link between Edmonton and Calgary.
   And one of the presenters (from the general public) thought that it would be a great idea if these high-speed rail cars would not only be able to accommodate passengers, but also their automobiles.
   So you would be able to drive your Hummer into a rail car and then head to the viewing coach (somewhat like one of the B.C. ferries) to enjoy the scenery rapidly passing by at anywhere from 300 to 500 km/h. Hmm. It you thought that a U.S. passenger rail car was heavy, think how heavy this thing would need to be.
   There was also some other nonsense presented. How about a double-wide freight train (presumably on double-wide tracks) to go to Fort McMurray with the "wide loads" that we sometimes see on Hwy 2? Or perhaps a separate, toll-operated Autobahn highway for those among us who own Ferraris and Maseratis?
   But once the mirth subsided, there were serious concerns. In particular, there were the folks living in and among the smaller communities (i.e. Innisfail, Didsbury, etc.) who have to contend with the extra noise and the extra barriers to conventional traffic that such a system would entail.
   The 2004 Van Horne study states that for the cheaper, 200 km/h version of high-speed rail, there would be a need to construct 46 new grade separations.
   This would mean fewer annoying whistles at midnight, and an average of a grade separation every six km or so (if you're unsure what a grade separation looks like, just head west from Red Deer College about a kilometre and you'll travel over top of one without even realizing it).
   Another concern brought up was that government money would be used to foot the bill. It would be far better, it was thought, if we would instead just build another Hwy 2 using ... um ... government money. And lest you think that a mere six lanes would be needed, let's just remember that the six lanes by Leduc and Airdrie are already fairly congested.
   I think everyone who attended the event would agree that by far the most applause during the evening was reserved for an articulate young farmer by the name of Tony Jeglum, who insisted that no matter what the province decides to do, the time to start buying right-of-way is now ... or even better, yesterday.
   That shows that people fully realize that something has to be done about transportation. And that something can't merely kowtow to the ideology of more and more cars and more and more congestion. At some point, we have to realize that the world is finite.
   And at some point, we also have to ask ourselves why the price of oil -- adjusted for inflation -- is more than three times what it was 10 years ago And we should also ask why, according to Forbes Magazine, oil exploration costs are rising at an even faster rate than the price of oil is rising.
   The answer is that we are running out of the easily available stuff. We're now literally mining the dregs.
   So by the time it gets built, we won't need the gold-plated, 300 km/h version of high-speed rail. The rising cost of gasoline will force us to give up our steel cages for some of the longer trips.
   But we will need to do something. And the fact remains that a diesel train at 200 km/h (the Van Horne silver-plated version), fully loaded with passengers, gets 10 times better fuel mileage (per person) than does a single occupant in a Ranger Rover going only 100 km/h.
   And the diesel train is also frugal with regard to land purchases needed for the new right-of-way. Compared to the 300 km/h electric version, it is anywhere from five to 13 times more frugal (and as AltaLink showed us, land purchases can be a headache).
   So it's time to wake up. We need to quit dreaming about a future where our neighbour is George Jetson. And we need to quit dreaming about Autobahns and Ferraris.


Feb. 26, 2014, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley)
High Speed Rail
'It's time to make that first step forward'
   If Alberta is serious about a high-speed rail line the government should pick a route and acquire the land now, said a number of those who addressed an all-party MLA committee on Tuesday.
   Former Red Deer mayor Morris Flewwelling said if the province doesn't start buying up land now for a high-speed corridor property prices will keep rising and become a "major stumbling block" for the project.
   The success of a high-speed rail link between Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary also relies on travellers being able to access efficient city transportation systems at their destinations, said Flewwelling. Bus or LRT fares could even be built into high-speed rail ticket prices.
   "I think it's really critical (that) it's seamless, you just keep moving," he told the Legislative Standing Committee on Alberta's Economic Future at a public session in Red Deer on Tuesday night that drew about 40 people.
   "It doesn't make any sense if you spend 40 minutes getting to Edmonton and then wait an hour to get to the university."
   Lacombe-area farmer Tony Jeglum joked that the time to buy the high-speed rail corridor land was probably in 1905.
   Even if the rail system remains on the back burner, the least that should be done soon is to secure the corridor, he suggested.
   "It's time to make that first step forward."
   Before high-speed rail is developed it might make sense to restore traditional rail passenger service, similar to the Dayliner that used to run between the province's two major cities, he said.
   Gavin Bates, a retired mechanical engineer from Innisfail, said the province will likely have its work cut out for it trying to find a corridor, based on the difficulties in routing a proposed north-south transmission line.
   It will be "almost impossible" to find a route that is acceptable to rural landowners, he predicted.
   Ralph Cervi, a former Red Deer Mountie, said the government missed a perfect opportunity to create an infrastructure corridor when it was looking for the power line route.
   When a high-speed route is mapped out, it should be wide enough to provide for any future infrastructure needs, whether roads, pipelines, or transmission lines so repeated land expropriation is not required.
   Calgary-East MLA and committee chair Moe Amery said many of the comments received in Red Deer about the need to get going on land acquisition echoed similar views heard at the committee's meeting in Calgary on Monday night.
   Amery said many have expressed their concern about the cost of the line.
   "It's prudent thinking to do the grass roots work right now," he said.
   The cost of high-speed rail varies widely depending on the source. A 2009 government study pegged the bill at between $3 billion and $20 billion depending on the technology and type of train chosen.
   Some of the 15 people who made presentations to the committee were skeptical of the benefits of high-speed rail.
   Norman Wiebe, of Red Deer, said he is concerned that existing high-speed rail systems around the world are heavily subsidized by governments. Improving Hwy 2 would make more financial sense and provide immediate results.
   Wiebe also wondered if high-speed rail could deliver on its promise of shaving significant time off journeys to Edmonton or Calgary, when checking in and passing through security are factored in.


Feb. 12, 2014, Red Deer Advocate

High-Speed Rail

Red Deer officials express enthusiasm
   Officials from Red Deer were enthusiastic boosters of high-speed rail at recent meetings of a provincial committee that's studying the issue.
   Tara Lodewyk, manager of the city's Planning Department, and John Sennema, manager of its Land and Economic Development Department, spoke at a Feb. 4 meeting of the Alberta's Economic Future. Tim Creedon, executive director of the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce, provided remarks at a similar gathering on Jan. 29.
   A third meeting took place on Feb. 5.
   In official transcripts from the meetings, Lodewyk said that Red Deer has been planning for high-speed rail for more than 20 years, with such a system contemplated in the city's long-range planning documents.
   She suggested that Red Deer would be ideally suited to serve as a location for marshalling yards, maintenance, research and other support services for a high-speed rail system.
   Sennema echoed this opinion, proposing that the city "should not only be identified as a stop for integrating high-speed transportation but should also be contemplated as a provincial headquarter."
   Lodewyk said, "For Red Deer, we are thinking about high-speed transportation not as an if but a when, and we will continue to plan with a stop to our west in our growth area."
   During his presentation, Creedon speculated on what high-speed rail would mean to Red Deer.
   "Well, we believe that what would be created here in Alberta is a super region -- Edmonton, Red Deer, Calgary, closely linked -- with very strong transport and very quick transport between the different sectors.
   "It would mean for us access to a much larger labour pool, a more efficient use and allocation of that labour pool, and a much larger market for business."
   High-speed rail would also make Red Deer a more attractive place to do business, said Creedon.
   "More businesses could start using Red Deer as a hub for logistics, distribution and transportation, more businesses could use Red Deer for their manufacturing needs, taking advantage of that very same skilled labour force and related infrastructure, and we foresee that Red Deer could become a bedroom community for Calgary and Edmonton as well because of the lower cost of property in Red Deer being quite attractive when balanced with the need for people to work in Edmonton and Calgary."
   With representatives on hand from high-speed rail companies, conventional transportation companies, municipalities and economic development groups, and transportation experts and consultants also taking part, the meetings produced arguments for and against high-speed rail.
   Matti Siemiatycki, an associate professor in the department of geography and program in planning at the University of Toronto, was one of the critics.
   "Even after a number of years, when you get to 2051, the ridership is still below that threshold that this project would need to really be economically viable on a purely financial basis," she said, adding that high-speed rail produces fewer emissions than airplanes but has been found to be comparable to cars and buses when it comes to a carbon footprint.
   "To spend a lot of money or time on a corridor that may or may not take place for many years, likely decades, until it's viable in the future, to me seems secondary to other investments that would probably have a higher priority and benefit.
   Alexander Metcalf, president of Transportation Economics & Management Systems -- a Canadian company that evaluates major transportation projects in North America -- said the time is right for high-speed rail in Alberta.
   He said a system capable of carrying passengers at speeds of 200 to 220 m.p.h. (320 to 355 km/h) would produce an economic benefit of $20 billion in the corridor.
   "That's the sort of overall number that you would get from a project that basically is going to cost you somewhere between $3 billion and $5 billion."
   Property values along the line could appreciate by $1.4 billion, he added.
   "People will want to build over your station, on your station, close to your station, anywhere near the station within a circle of about half a mile. So there'll be huge development not just in Calgary and Edmonton, but also in Red Deer.
   "Red Deer will get a significant benefit from this project because Red Deer will find itself an hour's travel time from either Edmonton or Calgary, which will make it a very, very attractive place to live and to have a high quality of life."
   Growing traffic volumes on Hwy 2 necessitate that some action be taken, said Metcalf.
   "Essentially, you're growing so fast that if you do not build a high-speed train, you are going to have to put in Hwy 2 again, complete, in order to satisfy the market for travel in this corridor."
   The Legislative Assembly's Standing Committee now plans to conduct public meetings in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton on the issue of high-speed rail. In Red Deer, this will take place on Feb. 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the Red Deer Lodge Hotel.


Dec. 11, 2013, Red Deer Advocate (Canadian Press)

Talk of high-speed train line
picking up steam?

   EDMONTON -- Rapid population growth around the province has many Albertans pushing for a high-speed passenger rail service.
   That's what the standing committee on Alberta's Economic Future will be examining in briefings this week with transportation officials holding hearings in Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer.
   Paul Langan, the Founder of High Speed Rail Canada, says it's something Albertans have wanted for a while.
   But Transportation Minister Ric McIver said he doesn't think the government should pay to build a high-speed rail line.
   A 2009 government study estimated the cost of a link between Calgary and Edmonton at between $3 billion and $20 billion, depending on the technology and type of train chosen.
   It has been 28 years since passenger rail service existed between Calgary and Edmonton.
   Opposition Finance critic Rob Anderson called the train a make-work project, and said a lack of commuter traffic makes the prospect unrealistic.
   "Frankly, it's just not a fiscally responsible thing to do right now," Anderson said. "We have a large ongoing deficit that's occurring; we've got $17 billion in debt on the books by 2016."
   Edmonton's mayor took to Twitter to weigh in: "What we need are complete LRT systems at both ends." Iveson tagged Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi in his message.
   Meanwhile, a local developer admitted the concept could have its appeal, but doesn't think there aren't enough people in Alberta to make it a profitable venture.
   "In terms of paying for it, and actually having it used, to the point where there's enough trains and enough traffic to provide the ridership, it's very, very difficult," said Ken Cantor, vice-president of Development for Qualico.
   The report is expected May 25.


Jan. 2, 2013, Red Deer Advocate (Laura Tester)
City touting high-speed rail stop
at downtown station

   Alberta's high-speed rail may be decades away, but the province should be acquiring the right-of-way along the Hwy 2 sooner than later, say Central Alberta leaders.
   Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling will continue to press the provincial government for high-speed rail to be built along the Hwy 2 corridor -- even though it's nowhere in future capital plans.
   Flewwelling spoke this fall with Premier Alison Redford on how such a project would be vital for Central Alberta.
   He would like to see a stop below the downtown bus terminal known as Sorensen Station.
   "We're consistent with that message because we believe that, while high-speed rail isn't going to be here tomorrow or the next day, it will one day become a part of Alberta transportation infrastructure," said Flewwelling.
   Government coffers are tight, Flewwelling said, but this shouldn't preclude planning and thinking about the high-speed rail and private partnerships.
   Flewwelling said the province must drive the project along since it's very expensive and will continue to get more costly.
   There's urgency to acquire right-of-way and to do preliminary planning.
   When Alberta Transportation is looking at the routing of highways around Red Deer and the development of our airport, it's very much tied to the best use of high-speed rail," said Flewwelling.
   Alberta Transportation spokesman Parker Hogan said that one of the first tasks, once the project gets the go-ahead, is to get the right-of-ways in place.
   While high-speed trains may have limited crossings in Europe and elsewhere, in Alberta there's quite a few so that would have to be considered in where it will be routed, Hogan said.
   The fast train is not in any future capital plans, said Hogan.
   Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood said he recognizes the province has a lot of "asks" ranging from health care and school needs to other infrastructure projects.
   But I do think there will be a point in time where we do have to garner the right-of-way for that rail line, before someone builds a bunch of development on top of it," said Wood.
   It might be my great-grandchildren who use it, but if we have to dig under the ground and the costs go up so much, it may not even be feasible then."
   Wood said the project is not on the county's radar right now, other than it's important to get the right-of-ways in place.
   Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver told a Chamber of Commerce audience in Fort McMurray in September that several people had come to his office saying they would build it if the government has the land.
   In 2009, then-Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette predicted a high-speed train was 15 years away from having its first passengers.
   The high-speed rail study looked at five station stops along the Hwy 2 corridor -- the airports in Calgary and Edmonton, downtown Calgary and Edmonton, and an unidentified stop at Red Deer.
   That consultants' report evaluated four types of trains -- from the slower 200-km/h diesel electric train, which would take two hours to travel from Calgary to Edmonton, to the 480 km/h magnetic levitation train, which would deliver passengers to their destination in one hour.
   The high-speed rail was estimated to cost $3 billion to $20 billion, according to a 2009 study commissioned by the province.
   Other factors to consider include long-term viability and whether there is enough ridership, said Hogan.


Dec. 28, 2011, Red Deer Advocate (Laura Tester)
Fast-tracking bullet train a ticket to nowhere
High-speed rail not really useful unless anchored by efficient, effective
public transit: Flewwelling

   Premier Alison Redford is being urged to sit down with the mayors of Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer before any dollars are taken out of a $2-billion public transit program to fund high-speed rail.
   Mayor Morris Flewwelling said the premier should discuss the issue of high-speed rail and the GreenTRIP program during a sit-down meeting with himself, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel.
   He was speaking in reaction to news this week that the premier was hinting at reworking the GreenTRIP program to support bigger initiatives, such as the Calgary-Edmonton train link.
   "If we're going to be coming to the table, I would say Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer should meet with the premier and look at a fair and equitable way," Flewwelling said on Tuesday. "One of the things we don't want to see is Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer squabbling over the money. High-speed rail, even (most other) transit, cannot be built with municipal resources. It has to be built with provincial and federal money."
   Redford should embark on a 10-year plan involving both transit and high-speed rail, Flewwelling said.
   "Right now, most of the money would be spent on LRT and transit, but a little bit would also be spent on high-speed rail," said Flewwelling. "And gradually over the 10 years, the high-speed rail would get the bulk of the funding," he suggested. "We're just not putting enough provincial and federal money into municipal transportation and resources. We tend to want to put it in freeways and roads."
   The Green Transit Incentives Program (GreenTRIP) is intended to provide Albertans with a wider range of sustainable public transit alternatives to help increase transit ridership, reduce traffic congestion and thereby reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
   Last September, the Alberta government donated $12.1 million from GreenTRIP to the City of Red Deer so it could buy 40 new low-floor transit buses. Some Edmonton and Calgary leaders are wondering what the impact could be on future bus and LRT projects if some GreenTRIP funding is reallocated.
   There's no use pushing high-speed rail faster than local transit, Flewwelling said.
   "High-speed rail is not really useful unless each anchor point is served by an efficient and effective internal transit system," Flewwelling said. "There's no use getting dumped off without a car if you are nowhere. There has to be an intensive upgrading of LRT and bus lines in each of the centres."
   Flewwelling said he'd like to see the train stop in downtown Red Deer underneath Sorensen Station transit terminal and not on the west side of Hwy 2 outside Red Deer.
   The topic of building a high-speed rail system between Alberta's two largest cities has been bandied about for several years, but so far there's no definite plans as to when construction is likely. In July 2009, former Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette predicted a high-speed train was 15 years away from having its first passengers.
   In 2009, a high-speed rail study commissioned by the province looked at five station stops along the Hwy 2 corridor -- the airports in Calgary and Edmonton, downtown Calgary and Edmonton, and an unidentified stop at Red Deer.
   That consultants' report evaluated four types of trains -- from the slower 200-km/h diesel electric train, which would take two hours to travel from Calgary to Edmonton, to the 480-km/h magnetic levitation train, which would deliver passengers to their destination in one hour.


April 20, 2011, Red Deer Advocate (Evan Bedford)

Column: Energy and Ecology

Steam good alternative for
high-speed rail link

   "The commonly held view that the steam locomotive was replaced because it was slow is incorrect. Many of today's diesel and even electrically operated services are not appreciably faster than steam was 50 or more years ago." - Colin Garratt
   In fact, way back in 1938, a Pacific Mallard achieved the world record for a steam train of 203 km/h. The record still stands.
   When diesel trains phased out steam many years ago, the main reasons were related to the environment (coal put out a lot of smoke that urban areas already had enough of), constant maintenance of the steam boilers, and labour costs (steam locomotives required a driver as well as someone to shovel coal into the firebox).
   Over the years, however, advances were made to overcome the problems associated with steam.
   This generally took the form of retrofitting existing locomotives.
   Livio Dante Porta was an Argentine steam locomotive engineer, who was instrumental in doubling the efficiency of old steam engines for the Argentine railway system.
   Later on, David Wardale did the same in South Africa.
   Now, Wardale is at the head of a movement to go past mere retrofitting and into more efficient designs of steam engines (just like a house, greater efficiencies can be obtained by building from the ground up, instead of simply retrofitting).
   Wardale has designated the 5AT Advanced Technology Steam Locomotive (see www.5at.co.uk for more info) using off-the-shelf technology.
   The 5AT will, like the Mallard, be capable of 200 km/h, but it will also have much reduced fuel and water consumption, as well as much lower maintenance costs.
   And call me crazy, but I think that the 5AT would be a very good candidate for the proposed high-speed rail link between Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary.
   It would certainly be cheaper than the 330 km/h "greenfield electric" option currently being considered ($3.4 billion for initial capital costs mentioned in the 2004 Van Horne Institute Study).
   The two main advantages that steam has over either diesel or electric lies with its simplicity and its resiliency. Steam engines are inherently simple, so they can be repaired more easily with cheaper parts made closer to home.
   And steam engines can run on any type of fuel, since all you have to do is to heat up a boiler.
   Wardale has designed the 5AT to run on either diesel fuel or coal, but with fairly simple changes, it could theoretically run on anything from natural gas to hydrogen to bio-fuels to wood-chips.
   And they can run on any track, unlike the greenfield electric, which requires an additional $1.2 billion cost just for the custom track alignments and the attached electrification infrastructure.
   Oh, and there's a third advantage: they look and sound very, very cool. Just search for "fast steam locomotive" on YouTube, and you'll see what I mean. And that's good for tourism.
   Ask anyone associated with the Alberta Prairie Railway, running from Stettler to Big Valley.
   As for Red Deer's railway tourism potential, just go to www.forthjunction.com and click on "big and bold".
   Admittedly, the greenfield electric option would also be very cool. However, in the very near future, when fossil fuels will be a lot more expensive, we will be much less concerned with speed (that is, getting from Calgary to Edmonton in 80 minutes), and a lot more concerned with cost, efficiency and effectiveness.
   Farmers are already ahead of us on this point.
   That's why a group of them recently chipped in $5 million to buy a used diesel locomotive and 80 km of abandoned CN rail line between Camrose and Alliance. They know the cheapest way to haul grain.
   At the other end of the spectrum, there are those of us who think that there's nothing wrong with Alberta that a six-lane highway won't cure. To them, I would say that when gasoline prices get to $2 or $3 a litre, we won't have to worry about congestion any more. And that's where the inherent efficiencies of rail come in.
   We need to invest in long-term efficiencies, not short-term expediencies. And if it comes in the form of a big old gal with exposed piston rods, six-foot diameter wheels, and a haunting whistle that a diesel engine just can't match, then I'm all for it.
Evan Bedford is a local environmentalist. Direct comments, questions and suggestions to wyddfa23@telus.net. Visit the Energy and Ecology website at www.evanbedford.com.


April 19, 2011, Red Deer Advocate
Business officials laud rail proposals
   Business leaders in Red Deer see proposals for new rail passenger stations in Edmonton and Calgary as a good sign that the province is getting ready to move forward with a high-speed rail project.
   Bruce Schollie, president of the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce, said on Monday that Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach's recent announcement of a possible rail station in Edmonton offers local proponents some hope that the province is moving ahead on high-speed rail.
   The City of Calgary has already purchased land for a rail station, so the Edmonton proposal increases the project's momentum, said Schollie.
   While there has been some discussion about where a station would be located for Red Deer, including potential to place it at the airport, it's difficult to plan anything without knowing the route the tracks will take, he said.
   Schollie also supports others, including Al Kemmere, former reeve of Mountain View County, who have expressed concern that the rail corridor would restrict east-west access for farmers and emergency vehicles.
   The province needs to start making land agreements now and planners en route need to know what the route will be so they can be adequately prepared once the project is ready to go, said Schollie.


Jan. 21, 2011, Red Deer Advocate (Harley Richards)
Chamber pressing high-speed rail plan
   The Red Deer Chamber of Commerce is hoping to fast-track high-speed rail.
   Urging the Alberta government to move forward with the long-contemplated project is one of six policy resolutions approved by the Chamber board on Wednesday -- setting the stage for the Alberta Chamber of Commerce to potentially adopt that position this spring.
   "We don't know where it's at and what's being done, so we'd like to give a little nudge," said Chamber president Bruce Schollie, stressing the importance of the issue to Red Deer.
   "It's crucial to us. We want to make sure that our voice is heard when it comes to high-speed rail, because we don't want to be forgotten."
   The Chamber resolution asks the provincial government to quickly implement the recommendations in a recent study prepared for the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties.
   That study highlighted the importance of identifying a right-of-way for a high-speed rail system between Edmonton and Calgary, so that affected municipalities can plan for it.


Nov. 4, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (John Stewart)

Our View (Editorial)

Train's future needs path

   There are some disturbing parallels between the laborious and acrimonious process to establish a route for electricity transmission lines in Alberta and the high-speed train proposal.
   A new study commissioned by the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties warns that an Edmonton-to-Calgary high-speed rail service could have a dramatic impact on rural life in the heart of the province.
   The report says a high-speed rail line could cut off communities, causing transportation and emergency services issues; split farmland holdings and disrupt farming operations; hamper wildlife migration; and place communities at economic peril.
   The report was initiated so that rural concerns related to the project were put on the table early in the process.
   It's a prudent step by the municipal association, given the unsettled -- and unsettling -- nature of the move to establish new power transmission lines.
   The process to establish power lines has stumbled, reversed and retrenched, and still no end is in sight. The provincial government has been accused of underhanded behaviour; of short-circuiting due process; of ignoring the wishes of its constituents; and of even failing to demonstrate clearly the need for transmission lines.
   These criticisms are pointed and fair.
   So it is reasonable to be concerned about the process to establish high-speed rail service in Alberta's corridor -- and the rationale behind the drive for high-speed rail.
   Earlier this year, the province announced that it was developing a 40-year transportation plan, with the expectation that new infrastructure would need to service an Alberta population of about six million people, about four million of whom would live in the Edmonton-Calgary corridor.
   Red Deer could be a community of as many as 300,000 people by then.
   The strategic plan is intended to examine all key facets of transportation: rail, roads and airports.
   But a 40-year timeline is long-term and the need to alleviate congestion on Hwy 2 and to pioneer energy conservation strategies would seem much more immediate.
   Alberta Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette (who happens to be the MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, an area across which a high-speed line could well traverse) has said it could take 10 to 15 years to get high-speed trains on the rails.
   Proponents have suggested that a much faster timeline should be adopted.
   In June, Anthony Pearl told a Red Deer audience that high-speed rail should be approved by the end of the year and operational by 2014. Pearl is the director of Urban Studies at Vancouver's Simon Fraser Institute and co-author of a book called Transportation Revolutions: Moving People and Freight Without Oil.
   Into this climate of uncertainty and the need for action (the province has apparently secured five station sites, in Edmonton, Calgary, those cities' international airports, and Red Deer) comes the report from the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties.
   The intent is clear: there are many stakeholders here beyond the people high-speed rail would directly serve and the commercial entities that would build, service and operate it.
   The province's wide-ranging transportation strategy is expected to be ready in 2011.
   It must be part forecast and part roadmap. And it had better take into account the impact of development on all Albertans.
   Otherwise we'll have disaster on our hands that will make the mess over power transmission lines look puny.


Nov. 3, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley)

High Speed Rail Study

Project creates issues for rural residents

   A new report says a high-speed rail link could mean longer trips for rural drivers and emergency services, split up farmland and pose a barrier to wildlife.
   While running trains at speeds up to 300 km/h from Edmonton to Calgary will create a number of issues for rural residents and communities, the report commissioned by the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties does not weigh in on whether high-speed rail is desirable or even feasible.
   "We're not saying we're for or against at all," said association president Donald Johnson. "That's not the point of the exercise."
   The association undertook the report to ensure that the concerns of rural residents are understood and taken into account if the high-speed rail project moves ahead.
   "It was a proactive approach," said Johnson. "We felt like if you wait until this happens it's too late."
   The 129-page Study of High Speed Rail Impacts on Rural Alberta is being billed as the first of its kind. The study by Ottawa-based CPCS Transcom Limited identifies the impacts of the rail line and what can be done to reduce potential problems -- such as putting in overpasses and underpasses, new fire stations and hospitals and ensuring they are suitable for farm machinery and livestock.
   Johnson said it's likely if high-speed rail was to go ahead it would only make sense if 300 km/h trains were used.
   The route would also have to be mostly at ground level because of the cost of elevating tracks and would be fenced for safety reasons.
   The study suggests the number of crossings would be lower than those on the existing rail line.
   If that's the case, some serious planning about crossings needs to take place, and rural communities need to be involved, said Johnson.
   One of the important issues will be how will emergency services access be addressed.
   "If you get a fire, there's going to be re-routing that's going to have to happen."
   A high-speed rail line could make it more difficult to move farm machinery or livestock and also leave some landowners with divided farms.
   "There's commercial and economic potential impacts, not just for rural municipalities, but also for our small towns that are our service centres, like Innisfail and Olds and so forth."
   The study also looked at how a high-speed rail corridor might affect land opportunities. Rural landowners are leery of development restrictions being imposed on land that may not be needed for decades.
   The association argues that it is clear from the study that if the government plans to go ahead with high-speed rail the best way to reduce impacts on rural communities is to get moving on the multi-billion dollar project.
   "The longer the wait, the more development will take place that may interfere with route alignments," he said, adding the government should consider picking a route now if it's serious about the project.
   Complicating efforts to make any predictions about the impact of the line is the fact no route has been endorsed by the provincial government and the effect on rural areas also depends on the type of rail line chosen, the number of crossings and other unknowns.
   In the absence of a route, the study looks at three potential options: on the existing Canadian Pacific Railway right-of-way, next to Hwy 2 and a new corridor through less populated rural areas.


July 7, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (Greg Neiman)

Our View (Editorial)
High speed rail back on

   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.


July 6, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (Laura Tester)
Rail plan returns
Mayor, Chamber of Commerce, elated province once again looking at
high-speed rail link

   A new provincewide transportation study will hopefully further show the merits of having high-speed rail stopping in Red Deer, says the president of the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce.
   Alberta Transportation will study the challenges and opportunities facing roads, rail lines and airports up until 2050 -- a decision that Don Mancuso supports.
   The study is expected to be complete in 2011.
   "We would love high-speed rail to stop in Red Deer," said Mancuso. "That's the key."
   Luke Ouellette, minister of transportation and MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, said he's not sure what will come out of the strategic plan when it comes to high-speed rail development.
   But it may show the need to develop this industry quicker than earlier forecasted timelines, Ouellette said.
   He had earlier projected it would be at least 15 years before a bullet train could be operational between Calgary and Edmonton.
   "I know Red Deer has huge support for high-speed rail," said Ouellette. "They think that the connectivity between the two major cities would be great."
   Mancuso said he recognizes that the costs of building a high-speed rail line is staggering.
   "What it comes down to is usage and so maybe those are things that will be addressed in this study," he said.
   By 2050, there could be six million people or nearly 80 per cent of Alberta's population living in the Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer regions according to the province's recently released Alberta Population Projections report.
   Last year, a high-speed rail study commissioned by the province looked at five station stops along the Hwy 2 corridor -- the airports in Calgary and Edmonton, downtown Calgary and Edmonton, and an unidentified stop at Red Deer.
   Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling said the new study is "very, very good news."
   "It makes it very difficult to plan if we don't know what the bigger context is," he added.
   The city has envisioned what Red Deer could look like in the next 40 years with about 300,000 people. The city has looked at water supplies, transportation, and land use. With this new provincial plan, Flewwelling said they'll have knowledge as to where highway roads may be and now they could connect with city roads.
   High-speed rail is also an important topic now because right-of-ways need to be protected beforehand, he added.
   Mancuso said he supports the study's aim overall. He'll be interested to know what transportation could look like in 40 years.
   "The plan is about fact finding and consulting with everybody on where you think our province should be going," said Ouellette.
   His ministry has already issued a request for proposals.
   A consultant would be hired, but the cost to do this study isn't yet known, Ouellette said.
   He envisions the plan would be done sometime in 2011.
   Ouellette said Premier Ed Stelmach wants to get this strategic plan underway because he's committed to 'having the most advanced infrastructure system in North America'.


June 11, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (Laura Tester)
Get moving on high-speed rail link: expert
  
The Alberta government should make a decision this year on developing high-speed rail between Calgary and Edmonton, a transportation expert said in Red Deer on Thursday.
   Anthony Pearl, director of Urban Studies at Vancouver's Simon Fraser University, told more than 80 elected leaders and business representatives of the Central Alberta Economic Partnership that it's important to get moving on high-speed rail.
   Pearl co-authored the book, Transport Resolutions: Moving People and Freight Without Oil, and is chairing the Intercity Passenger Rail committee of the U.S. Transportation Research board.
   "And plan to actually be building the thing in three to four years time," Pearl said.
   "I'd like to come back (to Alberta) in the coming decade and ride a high-speed train between Calgary and Edmonton, and visit Red Deer as well."
   Places in the world that develop high-speed rail and other electric modes of transportation in the next several decades will have much greater opportunities than those relying on oil fuel transportation, he said.
   "We're on the cusp of an energy shift in the world which is going to make high-speed rail much more valuable in the future," Pearl said.
   "The economy is going to grow the fastest in places that do this first."
   Electric mobility can be powered by many different energy sources, not just oil.
   "While it's not going to happen overnight, but if we wait until the next big energy crisis, then we're going to have a lot of economic and probably social problems that come along with that," Pearl said.
   China is building the world's largest high-speed rail network, which will allow the country to move its millions of people around without reliance on oil, Pearl said.


March 24, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (Matthew Gauk)
Rural groups want high-speed rail study
Concerns linger about track's effect on countryside
  
Rural municipal officials in Central Alberta stand on both sides of the tracks when it comes to a high-speed rail line in the Calgary-Edmonton corridor.
   Worries over how such a line would affect life in the countryside have prompted the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties to commission a study on the subject, president Don Johnson said Tuesday.
   The association -- made up of municipal districts and counties and four specialized municipalities -- isn't necessarily against high-speed rail, he said.
   "We've had concern expressed by membership in the central corridor about the potential impact. Most people don't think it will (happen), but if it does happen, and we don't have any information on it . . . we'd be remiss," said Johnson.
   The exact nature of the study will be firmed up at a meeting next month. It's expected to take about six months to complete.
   "First off, a high-speed rail is just going to be another trail through Mountain View County that is going to split our county rural environment in half. We have Highway 2, we have Highway 2A, and we have the power lines," Al Kemmere, reeve of Mountain View County, said Tuesday.
   "Another concern is high-speed rail is primarily for the three cities. It's for Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton, and it's to serve their needs."
   He's concerned it will take away from traffic stopping in rural communities, thus affecting economic development.
   "It's just going to blow them right straight through. So we get all the impacts, and none of the benefits."
   Everett Page, a Mountain View County councillor, said he's concerned because with limited stops likely, people in his area would probably have to drive to Calgary to get to Edmonton on such a train. Plus, he added, the line would inevitably run through "some of the best quality farmland in Alberta."
   Lacombe County councillor Cliff Soper says he's "always been supportive" of a high-speed rail line, but that it's just a question of whether it would be economically feasible. While the population flow might not warrant such a system now, he's confident it will in the future.
   It would be a huge benefit for anyone in Central Alberta who needs to fly out of Calgary or Edmonton or who has a business meeting in the cities, he added.
   Red Deer County Mayor Earl Kinsella said he understands that the rail line could be "a pain in the neck" for farmers who would likely need to drive out of the way to access possible crossings. But he argued against the idea that the line would somehow take away from the economic development of towns along the highway, saying vehicle traffic will always increase.
   Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette, MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, calls the route from Calgary to Edmonton "the perfect corridor". A high-speed rail line wouldn't stop at every spot, but would "do nothing but help" rural municipalities in Central Alberta, he said.
   The government's next step with bullet trains is to do a railway corridor study when financing for such a project becomes available, Ouellette said.


October 19, 2009, Red Deer Advocate (Brenda Kossowan)
Political will lags behind train debate
   Lack of political will is the biggest obstacle in front of bringing high-speed passenger trains to the Hwy 2 corridor, say experts who support the project.
Pettypiece at high speed rail symposium - Stokoe photo   Sixty-five people, mainly business leaders and municipal officials, attended an information meeting in Red Deer County Chambers on Wednesday to discuss a system connecting Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary.
   The County, the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce and the City of Red Deer sponsored the meeting.
   Admittedly, it would be hard for Premier Ed Stelmach to ask Albertans right now for the $2.4 to $3 billion estimated costs of buying the land and building the system, said presenter William Cruickshanks, president and CEO of Alberta Rail Inc.
   At the same time, the longer the provincial and federal governments drag their heels, the more it will cost and the more complicated it will become to acquire the land needed, said Cruickshanks.
   He promoted a high-speed rail system on its safety benefits, its convenience and its ability to defer the need to continue widening Hwy 2 to meet the increasing numbers of vehicles that come along with population growth.
   "Threading through this corridor is going to get harder every year. You build ahead of the curve, not behind the curve," he said.
   Joining Cruickshanks in the hot seat were moderator Paul Langan, founder of the advocacy group, High Speed Rail Canada, and Ashley Langford, vice-president of Alstrom Transportation, which builds bullet trains and power systems.
   Politicians focus on short-term goals with visible benefits, when high-speed rail needs leaders with long-term vision, like when the province first built Hwy 2 back in the 1960s, said Langan.
   "Really, we're the ones that elect these people. My thought is that the people have got to say it."
   Langan and Cruickshanks told their audience that political will would not develop without significant pressure from the public.
   Certainly, education, health and the highway infrastructure are the government's key priorities, said Langan.
   He and Cruickshanks urged their audience to write or phone their MLAs asking them to bring the discussion back to the table.
   Members of the audience expressed a wide range of concerns about running a bullet train in Alberta.
   They include whether the price of tickets would justify the speed and convenience, how the train would integrate with transportation systems at its various destinations and whether there would be enough riders to make it profitable.
   Al Kemmere, reeve of Mountain View County, said his biggest worry is that train would cut one side of his county off from the other.
   While he supports the concept, Kemmere said he sees some "significant casualties" for people who won't see the same benefits as Red Deer, Calgary and Edmonton.
   "The communities in between those drop-off points are not going to be able to have the advantage of the train, and yet they're going to be affected by the train."
   Travel from one side of Mountain View County to the other -- including farmers travelling between fields -- is already affected by long trains on the CPR track and by Hwy 2, said Kemmere.
   "Now they create another corridor, right in between those two, and it's severing my county completely," he said.
   While the final route of the line will be up to the government, Cruickshanks said the line can be designed with bridges and overpasses so east-west traffic can cross the line and suggested that culverts and other types of structures can be built to allow farmers access to their fields.
   He commended Kemmere's suggestion for creating a new transportation corridor that would carry both the freight and passenger trains, but noted that CPR itself may not be willing to consider such a plan.
   Red Deer County Councillor Reimar Poth said he learned nothing on Wednesday that changed his feelings about high speed rail.
   "We all know about mistakes the government has made in the past. I want to make certain that whatever is proposed has a logical consequence with the ability to be profitable and serve the citizens of Central Alberta. If it doesn't do that, it's not worth looking at," said Poth.
Photo: Central Alberta rail historian Paul Pettypiece gives a history of travel, specifically rail travel through the
  Central Alberta area during a High Speed Rail Canada educational seminar at the County of Red Deer offices on
  Wednesday. Photo by Jeff Stokoe, Red Deer Advocate


July 8, 2009, Red Deer Express (Mark Weber)
Province offers update on high speed rail
  
There's been a wave of positive response to a market assessment study of high-speed rail service for the Calgary-Edmonton corridor.
   Released by the province this week, the reports says travelers could get from city to city within one hour, and that by 2021 as many as six million riders will have used the service. There would be a stop-off in Red Deer as well.
   Mike Axworthy, president of the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce, said it's important for both the province and interested stakeholders to take a long-term look at it.
   "I can see where 20 years down the road we'd think what a great idea that we did it," he said.
   And although it could be a tough sell in a time of overall constraints and cutting back, Axworthy said the province could do its part by obtaining the right of way for a proposed route and holding onto that land.
   He also believes that the public would support the initiative, and all the more so if gas prices took a significant jump down the road and the public in general took on more of an environmentally-friendly stance.
   About 10 million trips took place along the corridor in 2006, of which 91% were by automobile.
   Mayor Morris Flewwelling said he's very supportive of the idea.
   "It puts us in closer proximity with Calgary and Edmonton," he said, adding that there would likely be more and more people working and studying in the bigger centres while still calling Red Deer home. He thinks more and more people will opt for the service as the QEII will only get busier over the coming years.
   Flewwelling would like to see the train's Red Deer stop located in the new Riverlands area off downtown, or just north of CrossRoads Church.
   Urban transport in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer has to be beefed up in the meantime so those arriving on high speed rail can get to their destinations more conveniently, he said. A bolstered transit system linking Central Alberta communities is also important, as many from around Red Deer would likely take advantage of the service as well.
   "It's absolutely imperative that the infrastructure is in place at both ends and in the middle of the route."
   The report also says that given the projected growth of the overall travel market along the corridor, it's estimated that high-speed rail ridership would jump by about 35% from 2021 to 2031 and by about 43% from 2031 to 2051.
   Meanwhile, Bill Cruikshanks, CEO of Alberta High Speed Rail Inc. said the best option is the $3.5 billion 300-km/h electric overhead train. The company's corporate aim is to be the operator of the high-speed passenger rail service.
   According to the Alberta High Speed Rail Inc. web site, a potential route for the rail system has even been mapped out just west of the QE II Hwy. Bridges would be used to separate the roads from the railway and the entire route would be fenced for safety.
   Next up, the province will pass on the data to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities for its final report.
   The committee starts up again in September.


April 2, 2008, Red Deer Express (Mark Weber)
Company pushes for high-speed rail
  
If Alberta High Speed Rail Inc. has its way, Albertans could be zipping between Calgary and Edmonton via high speed rail in five years.
   Ralph Garrett, vice president of the Calgary-based company spoke at the Kiwanis meeting this week about the project which could cost about $1.8 billion.
   Talk of high speed rail in Alberta has been going on for years, but Garrett said the time is now to launch the project.
   All that's needed is the province's full support, and he said Premier Stelmach is enthusiastic about the concept.
   Garrett, who just returned from checking out rail systems in Europe, said passengers could travel from Calgary to Edmonton in just 84 minutes.
   He said the line would have the potential of carrying 16,000 passengers each hour. Tracks would cover a width of just 35 metres, so Garrett said the impact on land-use is minimal.
   It's also a boon to the environment, as the trains would be powered by electricity. The air would then be spared about 150,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, he said.
   The proposed track route, which hasn't been nailed down, could run west of the QE II highway with a stopover in Red Deer.
   "It's all about time. People's time is one of the most precious things we've got. It's also about productivity. If you've got more time, you can get more done with your life," he said.
   "By bringing in a better transportation system in this province, we'll be able to attract all kinds of new industry as well," he said.
   As for the price tag, Garrett said the project would largely be funded by western Canadian investors, but a private-public partnership would cost the province about $120 million per year.
   Garrett said if the province gave the project the green light tomorrow, the trains could be in operation within five years.
   "Is it imminent? I hope so -- we've been working on this long enough."
   Meanwhile, the province is studying results from the High Speed Rail Market Assessment Study that will help decide if the project is feasible.
   Results from the study could be available within a few weeks, said Jerry Bellikka, spokesperson for Infrastructure and Transportation.
   The province launched the study to get a handle on how many commuters actually make the Edmonton-Calgary trip each day.
   Cameras were installed at three spots along the route to gauge if drivers were making the entire trek.
   Interviews have also been conducted at airports and bus stations to see if travellers would consider using high-speed rail.
   They were also asked if they would take it, how much they would be willing to pay if they did.
   Bellikka said there is a wide range of options when choosing a high speed rail service and the cost range could go all the way up to $24 billion.
   "What we as a government need to look at is whether the growth in our province over the next 10 to 15 years would justify an expense like that," he said.
   "We're going to see if there is a business case there, and if so, how would it work."


April 1, 2008, Red Deer Advocate (Brenda Kossowan)
Rail group projects service in five years
   Local passengers could be riding North America's first bullet train in as little as five years, says an engineer from Alberta High-Speed Rail Inc.
   All it would take is for the province to give the green light, Ralph Garrett, vice-president, infrastructure for the Calgary firm told Kiwanis members in Red Deer on Monday night.
   "Alberta's ready for high-speed rail. Everything's coming together. The stars are in alignment."
   Garrett said that, to the best of his knowledge, his company is the only one currently attempting to put a bullet train in motion along the province's Hwy 2 corridor, between Edmonton and Calgary.
   However, he assumes that others will step forward if and when Premier Ed Stelmach and his government put out tenders for the system.
   Garett's group, funded by investors from throughout Western Canada, proposes that the province buy the land and build the tracks. Alberta High-Speed Rail would then provide the trains, paying a toll to the province for each trip made.
   He estimated that taxpayers would have to invest $1.8 billion to cover the costs of buying the land and building a double sets of tracks, with those costs returned through the toll charged against the trains.
   Financed over 40 years, that would cost taxpayers about $120 million a year, which Garrett said is the price of three overpasses.
   Ultimately, Red Deer becomes the big winner, he said. The train trip would cut travelling time to either of the cities to 42 minutes, with trips running every hour in each direction, from 6:30 a.m. until 9:30 p.m.
   "Red Deer, this is where it's going to be. I'll tell you. With the two and a half million people living in the corridor today, and with the huge influx of population, just about everybody ends up living in the corridor someplace.
   The average fare from Calgary to Edmonton would run at a maximum of $65, depending on discounts. That's about $5 more than it costs to make the same trip by bus, said Garrett.
   The biggest savings will be in the amount of time people can spend doing something other than looking through the windows of a motor vehicle, he said.
   A 2003 study by the Van Horn Institute determined there were about six million trips between Calgary and Edmonton every year at that time.
   "We think we can capture about a third of those. Take two million people and put them on a train, and every time they ride that train, they save an hour and a half. You put three million hours back into society, that's 1,500 person years. It's found resources for the province."
   An exact alignment of the route has not been finalized, said Garrett. However, it has been assumed that the route would follow a line running west of Hwy 2, avoiding small towns. About 19 per cent of the route would be located on the CP Rail right-of-way, next to the freight line.
   It would be completely fenced and level crossings would be eliminated through the use of underpasses and overpasses.
   A couple of locations have been considered for a station in Red Deer, he said. One site is across the road from the Alberta Springs Golf Course, and the company is also considering the potential for placing the station at the Red Deer Regional Airport.
   One of the biggest challenges, in Alberta's harsh climate, will be to prevent frost heaves from damaging the rail bed.
   Even that challenge can be met, possibly by insulating the rail bed to avoid the abrupt temperature changes, said Garrett.
   His company's pitch can be viewed online, at www.albertahighspeedrail.com


News articles about the vision and progress of the Forth Junction Heritage Society
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News articles about green transportation: transit, biking and high speed rail

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