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Banff passenger rail project still working on provincial and environmental support

An ambitious proposal to bring daily rail service between Calgary and Banff is waiting on provincial dollars to secure the next step in making it a reality.

The company behind the project - Liricon Capital - says it's looking for roughly $10 million from the province in the near future to go along with $750 million already committed by the company and Canada Infrastructure Bank for building the line.

Jan Waterous of Liricon Capital said her company has already put up roughly $105 million and is waiting on the province to commit. But as recently as Monday, Premier Jason Kenney said that he's concerned about the cost to taxpayers.

"So far, we have not seen an economic case," Kenney said. "We are not prepared to write an unlimited cheque."

"We are always prepared to make strategic investments in capital infrastructure," Kenney continued. "But we don't think the government of Alberta's core business is to provide massive decade-long subsidies to operations of what is ultimately a private business."

But Waterous - who is a part owner of the project - says the comments misrepresent what her group is proposing.

"If this train costs more than the $1.5 billion that the government studies have said it will cost, that is on Liricon," Waterous said. "With no risk to the province, zero risk to the province.”

She said that the commonly used figure of $30 million a year for 50 years doesn't take into account a cost sharing plan that would reduce the province's burden if the service attracts enough passengers.

"We can move that down considerably and possibly to zero if we had other incentives to increase ridership,” Waterous said.

The premier has also had vocal praise for the plan - touting its promise of significantly reducing traffic on the Trans Canada Highway, reducing emissions and potentially easing Banff's staff accommodation and occasional labour issues.


But prominent environmental groups say they have their concerns about the potential for increased visitors and for wildlife such as grizzly bears and elk to be hit by trains or unable to move freely across the busy valley.

The potential doubling of trains within the region is only going to exponentially increase the impact on wildlife if connectivity is not addressed," says Josh Welsh, with Y2Y. "If underpasses, overpasses and fencing are not provided."

Linear disturbances such as roads, rail lines or power lines all have differing degrees of impact on many wildlife species, particularly grizzly bears.

The bears often cover huge distances pursuing food or mates, and transportation corridors are a significant cause of death for the provincially threatened species.

Waterous said her group is looking at safety and mitigation measures, but cautions much of that work comes later in the planning and engineering phases.

"The overriding intention here is to make it a lot better than it is now," Waterous says. "To put in mitigations that will ensure that wildlife is in fact protected more so than it is now." Top Stories

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