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Rail presentation prompts Carstairs council questions

Elected officials inquire about possible financial impact on municipalities
MVT Passenger train service
The proposed Alberta Regional Rail would use existing rail right of ways as well as upgrading and where required straightening track to allow for higher speeds. File photo

CARSTAIRS — A presentation on a proposed regional passenger rail system along the Highway 2 corridor with stops at area towns including Carstairs prompted some questions from town councillors, including regarding the possible financial impacts on municipalities.

Thomas Fryer and Vern Raincock with the Alberta Regional Rail project appeared before council on Jan. 10 during a one-hour delegation presentation.

The Alberta Regional Rail would use existing rail right of ways as well as upgrading and where required straightening track to allow for higher speeds, Fryer said. 

It would also include stations in urban areas along the line such as Carstairs, Didsbury and Olds, he said.

The proposed project is in the planning stages, with work on an economic analysis being undertaken over the next six months, said Raincock.

Coun. Angie Fricke asked what level of ridership would be needed to make the system sustainable.

Raincock replied in part that, “Based on basic economics, the operating costs will be profitable normally if you are able to provide frequency not more than one hour per pick up.”

Fricke asked, “What percentage of interest would you be looking for form the local municipalities?”

Fryer replied, “At this point in time, I wouldn’t be asking municipalities for anything. I know that money is tight in the municipalities. The idea of this isn’t to burden the municipalities' financial debt.

“Our priority initiative is to look at private financing. If a municipality wants to provide funding, I’m not going to stop them. But I’m not going to say, ‘Unless you provide me with X-million dollars, we are not going to build a station.' That is not the plan.”

Mayor Lance Colby said the town would be in contact with other area municipalities regarding the possibility of providing a letter of support for the proposal.

“We wish you the best of luck,” said Colby.

Council received the delegation presentation as information.

Raincock and Fryer made a similar presentation to Didsbury town council on Jan. 11, with that council passing a motion in support of the proposal and a second motion forwarding the proposal to the regional MAP (municipal area partnership) municipalities group for consideration.

Contacted by the Albertan, CP spokesperson Salem Woodrow said the company "doesn't have any comment to provide" on the proposed project.

Dan Singleton

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