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The Return of Calgary to Banff Passenger Rail Dreams Continue

Banff Railway Station Alberta
Banff Railway Station Alberta - Buses or Trains - The Government is Reviewing Options

In 2014, High Speed Rail Canada reported that Vancouver businessman  Greg Dansereau’s had a plan for high speed rail between Calgary - Banff. Greg founded HSBanff.

HSBanff was a private not-for-profit group aimed at building a rail line that would take travellers from Calgary’s airport to the mountain town in as little as 26 minutes on a train going up to 400 kilometres per hour. The group aimed to raise $300,000. by crowdfunding to pay for the feasibility and environmental studies.

Fast forward to 2020, the HSBanff website is gone and their twitter page has not been updated for three years.

Calgary - Banff Passenger Rail Service Feasible

On February 28th, 2019, the Calgary Herald reported that Calgary to Banff passenger rail service was feasible . A new report stated it would cost $660M price tag.

The preliminary study, paid by municipal governments,stated that the two options, buses and trains, were examined. According to the study, the bus scenario is the most cost-effective (with capital costs of between $8.1 million and $19.6 million. It would be $660 million to $690 million for rail), a rail link would move more people and be a bigger boost for tourism in the long run, said City of Calgary Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra.

The passenger rail service would require construction of a new parallel track along the Canadian Pacific Railway right-of-way.

On June 9th, 2020, it was reported that Canada’s Infrastructure Bank would pay for a more detailed study for Alberta and the federal government about the feasibility of operating a passenger rail service between downtown Calgary, Calgary International Airport, and Banff. The study would look at a public-private partnership to build and potentially operate the rail line.

The CBC reported that Adam Waterous approached the infrastructure bank representatives about the idea. Adam, along with his wife Jan, owns the long-term lease to the Banff Train Station. The couple have been outspoken advocates of Calgary-Banff passenger rail.

Calgary - Banff Not High Speed Rail

Unfortunately some media and politicians started using the word “high speed” when describing the proposed Calgary-Banff passenger rail system. On July 2nd, 2020 an article in the Calgary Herald clarified the issue. Canada Infrastructure Bank officials stated in the article it would not be high speed rail.

Hopefully future discussion on the topic will not mention the words “high speed rail”. True high speed rail costs would be significantly higher, due to bridges, tunnels, grade separations, new alignments etc.

A true high speed passenger rail between Calgary and Edmonton ( $5 billion) which is realistic and the most practical line that can be done in Canada, was last rejected in 2014. The two cities wanted transit money for their own inner city transit proposals not for intercity passenger rail.

The cities of Calgary and Edmonton continue to work in isolation of each other. Their failure to cooperate on intercity issues such as connecting the cities by high speed passenger rail will result in the status quo continuing with no passenger rail between them.

In conclusion, time will tell if the latest passenger rail study between Calgary-Banff will result in any action being taken to return passenger rail service.


  1. It is obvious that any public transportation option must provide a value which exceeds that of other options to be effective. The present passenger rail service between Calgary and Edmonton takes almost 5 hours. By comparison the flight time is one hour, so even with the greater wait time required at an airport the rail option is simply not competitive, even for downtown to downtown travel. The travel time by automobile is 3h, with of course the elimination of an intermodal transfer. However high speed rail is not necessary to address this. Conventional rail is designed for sustained speeds of 200km/h, which would cover the distance in an hour and a half, less than both air and personal automobile transit times. The Calgary-Edmonton rail service takes much longer even than Via Rail service between cities in Ontario and Quebec. For example the Calgary-Edmonton service takes longer than the Toronto-Ottawa service even though the distance is twice as great in Ontario and there are more major cities along the route which require stops.


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