A letter penned by Premier Smith last week showed support for the Calgary Airport Banff Rail project that could profoundly affect Cochrane.
The initial idea of the project grew from some residents of Banff looking for ways to manage the growing congestion in the national park. Since then, Liricon has proposed a science-based approach to vehicle and visitor management with an innovative transportation system at the Banff Train Station. The idea has progressed to providing locals, businesses, and the tourism sector with an expanded direct rail service from Calgary Airport through downtown Calgary to Banff. Along the way, there would be stops in the Bow Valley corridor including Cochrane, Stoney Nakoda Nation, and Canmore.
A portion of the Premier’s letter read:
Friends of CABR (Calgary Airport - Banff Rail) are very pleased with the Premier’s support of the Calgary Airport to Banff rail link. Bruce Graham, Founding Member and Executive Director of CABR was very pleased with the acknowledgment of the project by the province. Friends of CABR’s goal is about increasing community awareness of the project and promoting the benefits of CABR. The Premier’s support in writing provides CABR with more momentum for the project. Graham says, “That’s everything we could have hoped for at this stage to get the momentum going. Obviously, the province is a key stakeholder in the project and as a whole so far getting that messaging from the Premier to the Mayor of Calgary and from the Minister of Transportation is all very positive.”
So, what is CABR’s next step in helping the project come to fruition? Graham says, “Our next step is to make sure the communities in the Bow Valley corridor can get an appreciation and understanding of what the project is and the benefits that it provides to the corridor.” In turn, they hope to relay the message to the provincial government that the communities and residents of the corridor are supportive of the project.
Graham says, “It is a project that obviously has tourism links, but it is also a very important mass transit project for Calgary, and I would certainly put Cochrane in that same boat and for the residents of those two communities, in particular, this is a great asset to improve the economic development for the whole region.”
Where the project sits today is the upfront capital of $1.5 billion that has been pledged to build the railway and put the service in place. Graham says, before that can be done, detailed feasibility studies and work needs to be done and before that, the Canadian Infrastructure Bank is requiring that the province of Alberta step up as a partner with $10 million to complete the design phase. Graham believes, “We are at a very important juncture and hopefully with the Premier’s announcement, we can move on with the design phase. That is really what we want to encourage is using Friends of CABR as a vehicle to support that.”
In her letter, Smith alluded to the use of hydrogen-powered locomotives for the project and in Graham’s mind, the timing for that is good, saying, “Alberta having hydrogen as a fuel development opportunity tied to the oil and gas sector, I think this is a perfect demonstration project.” Graham adds, “Hydrogen power stock is already being deployed in Europe, but this would be the first project of this nature in North America and Alberta.”
If the pieces continue to fall into place, the reality of the rail line going through Cochrane is not that far off. Timeline-wise, Graham says, “The design phase could take up to 18 months, but the actual construction following an investment decision, is in the two to three-year timeframe because this can all be built in an existing CP rail corridor.” Graham recognizes that the Town of Cochrane has been a champion of the project and sits ready with the new station ready to receive the train.
Friends of CABR is a fully incorporated, not-for-profit entity registered in Alberta and Canada with the clear objective to inform Albertans of the Calgary Airport Banff Rail Project. Anyone wishing to learn more about Friends of CABR or would like to sign up to receive updates from them can go to their newly launched website.