Canada Infrastructure Bank signs MOU with Alberta to study proposed rail line linking Calgary and Banff

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

The Canada Infrastructure Bank will partner with the Alberta government to study a proposed rail line between Calgary and Banff. The agreement is the eleventh contract the $35B bank has signed since the Liberal government created it in 2017. So far, it has invested just $3.65 billion.

A cost analysis of the rail line will be launched as a first step – and the final investment decision could be years away. This is the first announcement by the Canada Infrastructure Bank since its chief executive, Pierre Lavallée, stepped down unexpectedly in April, amid criticism that the bank had been slow to approve projects.

The cost of the Calgary-Banff rail line is estimated at $660 million in a 2019 report by the City of Calgary, Banff and municipalities. The 130-kilometre project would include six stations, leading from Calgary International Airport to downtown Calgary, then on to Cochrane, Morley, Canmore and Banff.

It would create a critical airport-rail link to downtown Calgary and Banff National Park, increasing tourism opportunities and labour mobility, and reducing vehicle greenhouse gas emissions and congestion in the travel corridor.

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. This phase of work is consistent with the CIB’s role to provide advisory services to governments.

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,” he said. “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.”

Infrastructure and Communities Minister, Catherine McKenna, highlighted the importance of the CIB’s collaboration with Alberta.

“A train to Banff National Park would reduce congestion, lower emissions, protect the pristine environment while creating jobs and economic opportunity. This initiative is an example of how the CIB is moving to a new phase focused on accelerating investment in projects that will grow our economy and make Canada more competitive,” she said.

The Calgary-Banff Rail project is a new, 130-kilometre sustainable passenger rail service that would potentially include six stops (Calgary International Airport, Downtown Calgary, Cochrane, Morley, Canmore and Banff) along a dedicated line built within the existing Canadian Pacific Railway’s corridor.

The project would create an innovative, environmentally friendly public transit option and help the Town of Banff become more pedestrian friendly. Residents of First Nations communities would see increased employment opportunities with easier access to Calgary, Banff, Canmore and Cochrane.

The Government of Alberta intends to structure the project as a public-private partnership (P3) to attract investment, transfer risks and drive performance.

The CIB is a Crown corporation mandated to invest $35 billion in federal funding and attract private sector investment into new revenue-generating infrastructure projects.

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