The Government of Alberta announced it will develop a Passenger Rail Master Plan as the foundation to advancing passenger rail in the province.

According to the provincial government, as Alberta experiences record population growth and evolving transportation needs, advancing passenger rail infrastructure is essential for enhancing accessibility, efficiency, and connectivity across the province.

Alberta’s Passenger Rail Master Plan will look forward decades and identify concrete actions that can be taken now as well as in the future to build the optimal passenger rail system for the province. The Master Plan will assess the feasibility of passenger rail in the province, including regional (inter-city), commuter and high-speed services.

“A large and efficient passenger rail network stretching across the province has incredible potential. It represents a forward-looking vision and is a mobility solution for our rapidly growing province and I’m excited to watch this plan take shape and bring us into the future. There’s a lot of work ahead of us, but I’m confident that we will build the network Albertans need to improve daily life and work, boost the economy and take away the stress of long-distance travel,” said Danielle Smith, Premier.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith (left) and Devin Dreshen. (Government of Alberta)

The government’s vision is for an Alberta passenger rail system that includes public, private or hybrid passenger rail, including:

  • a commuter rail system for the Calgary area that connects surrounding communities and the Calgary International Airport to downtown;
  • a commuter rail system for the Edmonton area that connects surrounding communities and the Edmonton International Airport to downtown;
  • regional rail lines from Calgary and Edmonton to the Rocky Mountain parks;
  • a regional rail line between Calgary and Edmonton, with a local transit hub in Red Deer;
  • municipal-led LRT systems in Calgary and Edmonton that integrate with the provincial passenger rail system; and
  • rail hubs serving the major cities that would provide linkages between a commuter rail system, regional rail routes and municipal-led mass transit systems.
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“Alberta already has significant public mass transit systems in Calgary and Edmonton for the provincial passenger rail system to build upon. The Master Plan will be a vital tool to guide the province on the next steps in advancing passenger rail. It will provide certainty to the rail sector and ensure the most effective use of tax dollars and government authorities. We look forward to hearing from Albertans and working with municipalities, Indigenous communities and the private sector in advancing passenger rail in the province,” added Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors.

The vision includes a province-led “Metrolinx-like” Crown corporation with a mandate to develop the infrastructure and oversee daily operations, fare collection/booking systems, system maintenance, and planning for future system expansion.

“At VIA Rail our vision for integrated mobility means dreaming of a future where a passenger can easily switch between commuter rail, light transit, transit buses, and regional trains in an agile and simple way. We’ve already initiated a number of exchanges with partners, and we intend to step up the pace in the coming months and years. I can assure you that as integrated mobility becomes an increasingly important topic of conversation in Alberta, VIA Rail will be there to play a unifying role,” said Mario Péloquin, president and CEO, VIA Rail Canada.

Alberta’s Passenger Rail Master Plan will ensure government has the required information to make decisions based on where passenger rail delivers the best return on investment. The plan will provide a cost-benefit analysis and define what is required by government, including a governance and delivery model, legislation, funding, and staging to implement passenger rail in Alberta. This work will include a 15-year delivery plan that will prioritize and sequence investments.

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The Master Plan will take into account future growth, planning for the growing provincial population and considering the use of hydrogen-powered trains to ensure a robust and effective passenger rail system to serve Albertans for years to come.

Development of the Master Plan will include engagement with Albertans to gain their perspectives for the future of passenger rail in Alberta.

Alberta’s government has released a Request for Expression of Interest to seek world-class knowledge and consultant services as a first step toward the development of the Passenger Rail Master Plan for Alberta. Following this process, a Request for Proposal will be issued to select a consultant to develop the Passenger Rail Master Plan. The Master Plan is expected to be completed by summer 2025.

Featured image: A proposed high-speed rail line would span the 300 kilometres between Calgary and Edmonton with a stop in Red Deer.(EllisDon)

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