We are pleased with the ongoing progress and support HSBanff is gaining in terms of stakeholder and community relationships. We are hearing back from MLA’s, MP’s, municipalities and other stakeholders along the proposed route. These relationships are critical for achieving effective design and meaningful service from Calgary to Banff.
The feedback we are receiving has been very constructive, there are a few main themes emerging. Theme 1: There is a significant amount of support for return of some type of rail service between Calgary and Banff. Theme 2: This idea is so big people have a hard time believing it will work.
We feel there is good opportunity in both of these discussions.
Theme 1: We have been asked by a number of parties if we would be interested in providing passenger rail service from Calgary to Banff on the existing railway. Maybe.
Railways were privatized in Canada leading to realignment of core rail service and focus on freight. Adding passenger service on these existing rail lines would require approval from the private companies who own the rail line. The speeds reached by the passenger rail service would be limited by the existing rails design and the mix of freight and passenger trains would mean limited flexibility for the passenger rail service.
We have two questions, is it the best long term solution available to us? And, what do the customers want?
Theme 2: The idea is too big, not enough passengers; we need to plan for this in the future.
There are a number of factors to look at, one major factor being money. We have very good opportunities for private funding available for construction of HSBanff today. The sooner formalized agreements are reached between stakeholders and communities the sooner this money can be secured. It appears, at this time, the funding required to support stakeholder consultation and feasibility studies in the first year will be more difficult to secure than the major capital required for construction. This is all private funding.
How did we build the rail in the 1800’s? The “Guarantee Act” of 1849 guaranteed bond returns on all railways over 121km. This move almost broke the government bank and a number of rail initiatives required government bail outs due to excessive debt. The government has been clear so far, no public funds are available for this rail. We have not asked for public funds and we think this is really something the public could determine.
From an article written by Mike De Souza in 2009: “OTTAWA – Canadians overwhelmingly support high-speed rail and believe the federal government should provide the start-up funding as well as investments on an ongoing basis, concludes new poll.”
Ridership is very hard to gauge, we will complete studies and poll individuals; and, the major factor that will determine ridership is how effective the service is for reaching customer needs. We have posted a new Info Graphic that provides some interesting information on where we spend our transportation dollars today. You can locate this on our Facebook Page, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest. It is about priorities, our priorities are Time and Banff National Park.
To leave you with a quote: “It’s not as if we lack the capital – it’s just the imagination.” Paul Langan