Calgary-Banff Rail Project to undergo feasibility study

June 10, 2020
The Canada Infrastructure Bank and Alberta have signed an MOU to evaluate the benefits and cost of adding passenger rail service between Calgary’s airport and the national park.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed between the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) and the province of Alberta’s Ministry of Transportation to study the feasibility of a rail link between Banff and Calgary International Airport.  

CIB says it has been nearly 30 years since the province of Alberta had regular rail service between its largest city and Canada’s most visited national park. It is estimated about 23,000 vehicles travel Highway 1 in between Banff National Park gates and Calgary every day. Banff National Park attracts about four million visitors a year; a number expected to increase, along with traffic congestion on highways and local roads.

The Calgary-Banff Rail project aims to alleviate this congestion with a new 130-km (80.8-mile) rail line that would bring passengers between Calgary International Airport and Banff National Park with the potential to include four additional stops in downtown Calgary, Cochrane, Morley and Canmore. The service could have up to eight departures per day from the airport to Banff and the capability of running an express service from Calgary International Airport to downtown Calgary every 20 minutes. The line’s dedicated infrastructure would be built within the existing Canadian Pacific Railway corridor.

The Minister of Transportation for Alberta, Ric McIver, emphasized the potential benefits of this project.

"Our government is creating an environment where investors and job creators can succeed in Alberta. We're pleased to be partnering with the CIB to complete a feasibility study for the Calgary-Banff Rail project,” said Minister McIver. “The CIB brings expertise and experience needed for a project of this scale. We look forward to learning more about this exciting project and hearing from our community partners about how this opportunity can support our tourism industry and get our economy back on track.”

The MOU confirms the CIB will collaborate with Alberta Transportation to review the project's estimated costs and revenues, explore financing options and assess environmental, social and economic benefits prior to any potential investment decision by the CIB.

"We are pleased to be building a strong partnership with the government of Alberta. An important part of the CIB's role is to work closely with governments across Canada to advance new infrastructure opportunities. The Calgary-Banff Rail project is the first of many potential projects for the CIB in Alberta," said Michael Sabia, chair of the board, CIB.  

The CIB explains Calgary-Banff Rail project brings benefits to locals and visitors through the creation of an innovative, environmentally friendly public transit option and help the town of Banff become more pedestrian friendly. Residents of First Nations communities could see increased employment opportunities with easier access into Calgary, Banff, Canmore and Cochrane, while visitors to tourism, cultural and recreational areas in Calgary and in the communities along the line would also benefit from more convenient and efficient travel from the airport and nearby communities.

CIB will finance the cost of the feasibility study. The government of Alberta intends to structure the project as a public-private partnership to attract investment, transfer risks and drive performance.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.