The company behind the Calgary-Banff rail project calls on the province to intervene

CALGARY – Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Wednesday his government sees potential interest in a $ 1.5 billion rail link project that will link Banff to Calgary International Airport, but added that he was not prepared to engage in a request for provincial funding for the project.

“We’re not at any time prepared to commit any money for this,” Kenney told reporters the same day the company behind the project announced that it had submitted an updated proposal to the province as well as the Canada Infrastructure Bank.

We have to give that very narrow rigor and that’s where we are right now. ”

The Liricon Capital Ltd. proposal and its new investment partner Plenary Americas, a holding company of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), would see the rail line built in a public-private partnership.

Liricon, owner of the Mount Norquay ski resort in Banff, also has a long-term lease for the Banff station. The company has been working for years on the development of a multimodal tourism and transport hub.

According to Liricon, building a passenger rail line between the popular tourist town and Alberta’s largest city would significantly reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions in Banff National Park. It would also help diversify the province’s economy by increasing tourism spending and improving labor mobility in the region, Kenney told reporters.

The proposed project would operate on a new passenger line built in the existing freight corridor of Canadian Pacific Railway Limited. The proposal envisions service in seven communities, as well as a stop in downtown Calgary, with net ticket costs for Albertans priced at around $ 20.

Jan Waterous, managing partner of Liricon Capital, said his firm’s proposal was to have half of the $ 1.5 billion capital cost provided by the Canada Infrastructure Bank, which has already signed a memorandum of understanding to complete studies and due diligence for the project.

The remaining portion would be covered by Liricon, Plenary and debt financing, Waterous said. Although the project partners are not asking the province to commit upfront capital funding, they are asking the province to devote $ 30 million per year to the project. The province would not start payments until the railroad is finished, which could be as early as 2025.

“It’s basically a mortgage payment on half of the capital. And the reason it’s only over half of the capital is that the other half can be covered by the price of tickets, ”Waterous said in an interview. “So it’s actually very good value for the province. “

Liricon hopes to get a yes or no from the province by early February, Waterous said, so that it can move on to the advanced design phase of the project.

The project will require the twinning of a busy portion of the CP Rail line. In an email, CP spokesperson Salem Woodrow said the company is working with all parties involved to fully understand and assess the scale of the project.

“Any proposal to co-locate passenger rail service on CP property must preserve our ability to move freight, both at current levels and at those required to support future growth,” said Woodrow. “Alberta’s economy depends on a freight rail system that can move freight and freight safely and efficiently, especially through this critical trade corridor.

City leaders in the region, including the mayors of Calgary and Banff, on Wednesday praised the passenger rail proposal for its potential to improve connectivity in the region while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Liricon says his own conservative estimates suggest that a passenger rail line could capture 25 percent of daily visitors to Banff, reducing the impact of personal vehicles on the national park.

But environmentalists have already raised questions about the impact that the increase in train travel could have on the region’s wildlife, as well as the potential damage to the environment that could occur if the rail line were to prove popular and increased overall park attendance.

– With files from Alanna Smith

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 8, 2021.

Harry D. Gonzalez