Time to get serious about a high speed rail service

The time is right. There have been many studies, including one in May, 2014 by Alberta Transportation, supporting a high speed rail service from Calgary to Edmonton with a stop in Red Deer.

The time is right.

There have been many studies, including one in May, 2014 by Alberta Transportation, supporting a high speed rail service from Calgary to Edmonton with a stop in Red Deer. Private companies are ready to take up the challenge and employ Albertans to the tune of a $1.2 billion labour component during the construction stage and approximately 300 positions to operate the service (www.albertahighspeedrail.com), at a time of disappearing jobs in the oilfield. In general, all the studies have been supportive of a high speed north/south rail link.

Two relevant negative issues have been (1) the high cost (purchasing land rights and construction costs) and (2) the need for a larger population base to support filling the trains with paying passengers. These are important considerations but they can be factored into support for the project. First, we need to take a leadership position, thinking ahead until the project is completed within a larger population. The system will reduce costs in the long term to expensive repairs and construction of more lanes on Highway 2 and feeder highways. There will also be savings to repair and maintenance of automobiles that wear out quickly travelling the highway on business trips. The tourist travel throughout the year in this province should increase significantly with the addition of this train. There should be fewer distracted drivers and the accidents they cause. The costs of construction and land acquisition never seem to go lower so it would be better to start this process sooner rather than later.

Second, “if you build it they will come” is an often cited claim that may be true in this case. There would need to be incentives to promote travel on these trains. We need to be weaned off private vehicle transportation. These incentives could include any or all of the following: operating a very fast, small package delivery component allowing express delivery between cities in just over an hour, using carbon tax money to provide incentive support for the project to keep initial ticket prices low, using heritage funding to support the building of stations and transfer facilities, increasing support for intra-city public travel to create an efficient feeder system for the high speed rail service, and promoting the health and safety benefits of travelling by a safe, efficient , rail carrier.

It is time for the government to support this project as a way of helping to solve an immediate economic initiative problem in the province and as a long term solution to travel options in this province.

Jim Gough

Red Deer

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