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Our View (Editorial)
Train's future needs path

reprinted from Red Deer Advocate (John Stewart) November 4, 2010
There are some disturbing parallels between the laborious and acrimonious process to establish a route for electricity transmission lines in Alberta and the high-speed train proposal.

A new study commissioned by the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties warns that an Edmonton-to-Calgary high-speed rail service could have a dramatic impact on rural life in the heart of the province.

The report says a high-speed rail line could cut off communities, causing transportation and emergency services issues; split farmland holdings and disrupt farming operations; hamper wildlife migration; and place communities at economic peril.

The report was initiated so that rural concerns related to the project were put on the table early in the process.

It's a prudent step by the municipal association, given the unsettled -- and unsettling
-- nature of the move to establish new power transmission lines.

The process to establish power lines has stumbled, reversed and retrenched, and still no end is in sight. The provincial government has been accused of underhanded behaviour; of short-circuiting due process; of ignoring the wishes of its constituents; and of even failing to demonstrate clearly the need for transmission lines.

These criticisms are pointed and fair.

So it is reasonable to be concerned about the process to establish high-speed rail service in Alberta's corridor -- and the rationale behind the drive for high-speed rail.

Earlier this year, the province announced that it was developing a 40-year transportation plan, with the expectation that new infrastructure would need to service an Alberta population of about six million people, about four million of whom would live in the Edmonton-Calgary corridor.

Red Deer could be a community of as many as 300,000 people by then.

The strategic plan is intended to examine all key facets of transportation: rail, roads and airports.

But a 40-year timeline is long-term and the need to alleviate congestion on Hwy 2 and to pioneer energy conservation strategies would seem much more immediate.

Alberta Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette (who happens to be the MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, an area across which a high-speed line could well traverse) has said it could take 10 to 15 years to get high-speed trains on the rails.

Proponents have suggested that a much faster timeline should be adopted.

In June, Anthony Pearl told a Red Deer audience that high-speed rail should be approved by the end of the year and operational by 2014. Pearl is the director of Urban Studies at Vancouver's Simon Fraser Institute and co-author of a book called Transportation Revolutions: Moving People and Freight Without Oil.

Into this climate of uncertainty and the need for action (the province has apparently secured five station sites, in Edmonton, Calgary, those cities' international airports, and Red Deer) comes the report from the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties.

The intent is clear: there are many stakeholders here beyond the people high-speed rail would directly serve and the commercial entities that would build, service and operate it.

The province's wide-ranging transportation strategy is expected to be ready in 2011.

It must be part forecast and part roadmap. And it had better take into account the impact of development on all Albertans.

Otherwise we'll have disaster on our hands that will make the mess over power transmission lines look puny.

News articles related to high speed rail
(Forth Junction supports the concept of a future rapid passenger rail service connecting major destinations as efficient and enviro-friendly but is not directly advocating for any specific high speed rail proposal):

       News article: Talk of high-speed rail line picking up steam?
(Red Deer Advocate Dec.2013)
       News article: City touting high-speed rail stop at downtown station
(Red Deer Advocate Jan.2013)
       News article: Fast-tracking bullet train a ticket to nowhere
(Red Deer Advocate Dec.2011)
       Commentary: Steam good alternative for high-speed rail link
(Red Deer Advocate Apr.2011)
       News article: Business officials laud rail proposals
(Red Deer Advocate Apr.2011)
       News article: Chamber pressing high-speed rail plan
(Red Deer Advocate Jan.2011)
       News article: Project creates issues for rural residents
(Red Deer Advocate Nov.2010)
       Editorial: High speed rail back on
(Red Deer Advocate July 2010)
       News article: Rail plan returns
(Red Deer Advocate July 2010)
       News article: Get moving on high-speed rail link: expert
(Red Deer Advocate June 2010)
       News article: Rural groups want high-speed rail study
(Red Deer Advocate March 2010)
       News article: Political will lags behind train debate
(Red Deer Advocate Oct.2009)
       News article: Province offers update on high speed rail (Red Deer Express July 2009)
       News article: Company pushes for high speed rail (Red Deer Express April 2008)
         News article: Rail group projects service in five years (Red Deer Advocate April 2008)

Rise and Fall of Passenger Rail in the C&E Corridor

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