Passenger train between Calgary's airport, downtown and Banff back in front of city council

Three Calgary councillors are proposing the city support the launch of a Calgary to Banff train that would include a stop in downtown Calgary. As Adam MacVicar reports, the councillors say the train could be a big boost to the economy

A long talked about passenger train between the Calgary International Airport and the Banff townsite is set to go back in front of city council next week.

The notice of motion from councillors Jeff Davison, Ward Sutherland and Gian-Carlo Carra calls for the city manager, city administration, the downtown strategy team and the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation to assess the feasibility of a downtown stop on the proposed rail line.

“The line that would go from Calgary International, to downtown, to Banff is incredibly important for economic and downtown recovery,” Davison told Global News on Tuesday.

“When we think of the amount of tourists that come into Calgary and completely bypass our downtown, this would be a direct conduit to get them into the downtown, and stay in the downtown.”

In 2019, the Calgary International Airport saw 17.9 million passengers through its terminals.

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Davison estimates the economic boost to the downtown core from a stop on the proposed rail line could be in the range of $1.2 billion annually.

The Ward 6 councillor and mayoral candidate said he’d also like to see administration explore how a passenger line to Banff could be intertwined with the Green Line LRT project.

“Light rail transit meeting heavy rail transit, and better position a Union Station type mentality in the downtown core that would overall affect better transit infrastructure for everyone,” Davison said.

The notice of motion comes after the City of Calgary signed a memorandum of understanding with First Nations and communities along the proposed rail route from Calgary to Banff, which established the Bow Valley Corridor Alliance.

It also asks council to re-endorse that commitment to those communities.

If it passes during next week’s council meeting, the notice of motion also directs Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi to write a letter of support to the province and the federal government.

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At Tuesday’s priorities and finance committee meeting, Calgary’s mayor said he would not be voting to bring the notice of motion to city council for a debate.

“I’ve written that letter already, more than once, and I’m not entirely clear on what re-endorse something that we’re already a signatory to actually means,” Nenshi said in council chambers. “I’m not convinced this has any real authority, but with that said, I understand why you put it forward and you have the right to go ahead and do that.”

Carra voiced his support to let the notice of motion to go to council for a formal debate, calling the proposed line a critical project for the city’s future.

“Not voting for this is not the message we want to send out into the world,” Carra said.

The third co-sign on the motion, Sutherland, said an additional letter would show Calgary is taking the project seriously and taking a real look at the downtown station.

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Last week, Invest Alberta announced it had reached a detailed memorandum of understanding with Alberta Transportation and the Canada Infrastructure Bank to advance the proposed rail line.

Under that MOU, the project would include a 150 kilometer passenger rail line with seven stops between Calgary and Banff including in Cochrane, Morley and Canmore.

On Thursday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the project has a lot of potential but more due diligence is required.

The premier noted a train line would reduce CO2 emissions and create jobs.

“We understand Banff pPark has the highest emissions, CO2 emissions of any major park in the world,” Kenney said Thursday. “That’s because of all the car traffic. This would take a huge number of cars off the road while simultaneously improving the tourism experience.”

While there is no word on if the project would move forward, Invest Alberta said it plans to consult with municipal and First Nations stakeholders throughout the summer.

The notice of motion is expected to be debated at the next meeting of council on July 26.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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