Talk of high-speed train line picking up steam?

Rapid population growth around the province has many Albertans pushing for a high-speed passenger rail service.

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.

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