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Is Alberta Moving Out of Prehistoric Times. Discussions at the Provincial Standing Committee about High Speed Rail.

On November 25th, 2013 the Standing Committee of Alberta's Economic Future passed a motion that stated "Given the rapid and continual growth in the population of Alberta, in the interest of maximizing the economic impact of that population growth, the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future undertake a study of the feasibility of establishing a high-speed rail transit system to be built for Alberta in phases.”

You can listen to the audio from that meeting here:

Listening to the audio, it is clear that some members of the committee understand the urgency for Alberta to have high speed trains. Others minimize this urgency, and talk about high speed rail as if it may be possible 30-40 years from now.

On December 3rd, committee will receive a briefing from the Ministry of Transportation on the subject. The committee will then decide how consultation will take place between the public and stakeholders. 

The lack of any passenger rail in Alberta reflects Canada's dire state of passenger rail nationally. It has been 28 years since passenger rail existed between Calgary and Edmonton.

In 2003, Bombardier showcased their JetTrain in Alberta. Unfortunately the timing was not right and Bomardier failed to get orders for the JetTrain.

Previous Alberta studies on high speed rail that were completed in 2004 and 2008 resulted in no action taken by the government. Even Alberta High Speed Rail (, a private company interested in building the project has been unsuccessful in convincing the government to take action in this regard.

Polls have routinely showed that the citizens of Alberta and Canada want high speed rail. So, is the time finally right for the people of Alberta to have passenger rail like the rest of the modern world has had for the last four decades?

In the case of high speed rail, public/private partnerships are the norm. Almost all major infrastructure projects require substantial input from the federal government. Herein lies the problem. In Canada, I have often stated that the lack of any vision on passenger rail by Prime Minister Stephen Harper is killing any hopes for passenger rail resurgence in Alberta or anywhere else in Canada.

If Harper has no vision for passenger rail, one might hope that maybe he would, for political gain, invest in the future of high speed rail in Alberta. It could be suggested that many votes were gained by Harper's government $30 billion ship-building strategy in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Unfortunately, in Alberta, Harper needs no votes so the chance of a political reason for a major rail infrastructure commitment is slim.   

What about partnerships with other countries that have high speed rail? If Prime Minister Harper stated the Government of Canada was open for business relating to investing in a partnership in high speed rail, the companies would come. In 2008, when President Obama announced the USA were spending $8 billion to modernize their passenger rail system, Germany's Siemens, Spain's Talgo, Japan's Central Railway Company, and even Canada's Bombardier wanted to do business.

If the Alberta government is truly committed to returning passenger rail to Alberta they have to get the federal government on board.