Environmental groups raise concerns about proposed Calgary-to-Banff passenger train
Conservation advocates and experts are concerned a proposal for a Calgary-to-Banff passenger train is chugging along without addressing some key environmental issues in and around the national park.
Liricon Capital Inc., the lead private-sector proponent, is touting it as a hydrogen-powered transportation solution with lower greenhouse gas emissions than driving.
The company says it has received support from municipalities and the tourism industry, but the Alberta government has told the Globe and Mail it won't invest in the $1.5-billion train as it stands because the financial risks are too high.
Environmental organizations — including Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Yellowstone to Yukon and Bow Valley Naturalists — and some scientists say the proposal also has environmental risks.
"This is one of the most important conservation landscapes in North America," Tony Clevenger, a senior wildlife research scientist with the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University, said from Banff, Alta. "It also happens to be one of the busiest in terms of transportation infrastructure.
"The thought of this new rail line, which would be really close to the existing rail line, is really troublesome — not just in the park, but outside the park on provincial lands and Stoney Nakoda (First Nations) as well."
Concerns include wildlife deaths along the rail line — particularly grizzly bears, which have been hit and killed on the existing track — and the fragmentation of wildlife habitat in Alberta's already busy Bow Valley.
Josh Welsh, Alberta program manager for Yellowstone to Yukon, said passenger rail to Banff isn't a bad idea.
"We see it as a means to potentially provide a sustainable transportation vision that could work for wildlife, people and the planet," he said.
But, he added, there's not enough information or collaboration to know whether it works for wildlife.
"The Bow Valley is already being squeezed by development."
A recent report by the Canmore, Alta.-based organization found the mountain town's footprint has grown five times in 50 years. It focused on grizzly bears because "if you take care of grizzlies, you take care of a lot of other things."
The report found bears have lost about 85 per cent of their original habitat in the Bow Valley.
"So, when you talk about another piece of linear infrastructure, which a train line is … we are talking about cutting up the habitat, disconnecting wildlife," he said.
Devon Earl, conservation specialist with Alberta Wilderness Association, said the Calgary-based organization has similar concerns.
"We don't think there has been adequate assessment of how wildlife will be impacted," she said.
She also questions whether a train would actually reduce cars on the highway, saying bus service may be more cost-effective.
Liricon has said Parks Canada needs to consider raising the entry fee to Banff National Park for private passenger vehicles and expanding bus and shuttle service between park attractions.
Parks Canada said in a statement that its first priority is to protect the ecological integrity in national parks, but it's "not currently reviewing a proposal for passenger rail in Banff National Park." Any review, it added, would look at policy and legislation, including the Impact Assessment Act and park priorities.
Jan Watrous, managing partner with Liricon, said a study shows the train could carry about 11 million passengers annually and reduce highway traffic.
"The fact that the passenger train will be a zero-emission hydrogen train and significantly reduce vehicle traffic … means human and wildlife mortality on the highways will be dramatically reduced," she said. "The specifics of the hydrogen solution and wildlife mitigations will be determined through consultation."
The company has said it's considering using technology such as lighting or sound to warn animals about approaching trains and reduce wildlife deaths on the tracks.
Colleen Cassady St. Clair, a biologist with the University of Alberta, said she spoke to Liricon about that idea, which came out of some research she led.
Although early tests show it can be effective for some wildlife, she said "there's a lot of untested terrain in a warning-based system."
St. Clair said there could also be challenges with wildlife crossing structures that go over or under the tracks.
Clevenger, who specializes in wildlife crossings, said he's heard the company was looking at underpasses to align with those under the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park.
"That's very simplistic and completely unfeasible," he said. "You can't put in an underpass on the new rail line without putting an underpass on the (Canadian Pacific Railway) main line. You'd have to do both."
Clevenger said the measure would reduce already-compromised wildlife habitat.
A passenger train, he added, could end up increasing overall traffic to the national park.
"It's a landscape that is just overflowing with people," he said. "I don't think they can manage it."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 15, 2022
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Rescue crews piloted boats and waded through flooded streets Thursday to save thousands of Floridians trapped after Hurricane Ian destroyed homes and businesses and left millions in the dark. The destruction began to come into focus a day after Ian made landfall in Florida as one of the strongest hurricanes ever to hit the U.S.
A global helium shortage that began last year continues today, disrupting various helium-reliant industries from predicting the weather to making semiconductors and detecting gas leaks in ships.
Canada's largest territory is the backdrop for an Indigenous-focused alien movie following a ragtag group of teens fighting to save their community.
Thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope, a team of Canadian astronomers were able to spot the most distant and possibly the oldest star clusters ever discovered.
Hundreds of royal fans lined up outside Windsor Castle for the chance to pay their final respects to Queen Elizabeth II as the chapel where the late monarch was buried opened to the public Thursday for the first time since her death. The queen's death certificate says the 96-year-old monarch died of old age.
The Toronto Blue Jays locked up a playoff spot Thursday afternoon without taking the field, securing a berth when the Boston Red Sox defeated the Baltimore Orioles 5-3.
A Winnipeg father who fatally stabbed his three-year-old daughter won’t be eligible for parole for 18 years, a judge ruled Thursday afternoon.
The RCMP says Jeremy MacKenzie's arrest was not influenced by Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre's request to have the Mounties look into comments about his wife.
'80 per cent of immigrants go to Montreal, don't work, don't speak French': CAQ immigration minister
Quebec's immigration and labour minister claims that newcomers to the province "go to Montreal, don't work, and don't speak French," though he later tweeted he expressed "his thoughts badly."
After several years of negotiations, Alberta doctors and the province have reached an agreement.
A teenage boy was taken to hospital by paramedics Thursday afternoon after a fight outside of Queen Elizabeth High School in north Edmonton.
The City of Leduc has made an amendment to its Business Licence Bylaw in an attempt to curb catalytic converter thefts.
The B.C. government has announced dozens of measures designed to address critical staffing issues in the province's health-care system, which include expanding the roles of pharmacists and paramedics.
An investigation into the ongoing gang activity in Surrey has led to the seizure of an assault rifle, armour piercing bullets and drugs, according to Mounties.
The day after B.C. health officials laid out their plans for dealing with an expected surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations this fall, the latest data shows such a surge may already be underway.
Some Maritimers who lost power for days after post-tropical storm Fiona are questioning whether power utilities have properly prepared their grids for the powerful storms that are increasingly battering the region.
'This is our top priority': Nova Scotia Power continues efforts to get the province back online following Fiona
As Nova Scotia continues its clean up and restoration efforts after post-tropical storm Fiona left damage throughout the province, the focus remains on clearing trees and debris and getting the province back online.
Nova Scotians in need of financial aid following post-tropical storm Fiona can now apply for assistance from the provincial government.
Little to no rainfall over the past five weeks in several areas of British Columbia has prompted a warning from the Ministry of Forests about drought. The ministry says Vancouver Island, the inner south coast and the northeast corner of the provincehave reached the second-most severe level of drought on a five-point rating scale.
A man in a wheelchair was airlifted to hospital in Vancouver on Wednesday after he was struck by a pickup truck in Nanaimo, B.C. Mounties are still investigating the cause of the crash near the intersection of Railway Avenue and Fifth Street.
Residents of a village on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island can breathe a sigh of relief now that volunteer fire services have been reinstated in the community. The Village of Zeballos announced its volunteer fire department had been re-activated in a statement Wednesday.
A Sunwing flight attendant saved a passenger's life who went into cardiac arrest as a pilot made an emergency landing at Toronto Pearson International Airport this week.
Toronto city councillor Michael Thompson has been charged with sexual assault, his lawyer has told CP24.
Ontario’s minimum wage goes up this weekend. Here's what you need to know.
A 66-year-old Montreal man who is quadriplegic says he is seeking medical assistance in dying because changes to his home care services are causing him relentless pain and discomfort.
Despite his widely denounced comments about immigrants, Quebec Immigration Minister Jean Boulet could keep a seat in cabinet if the Coalition Avenir Quebec is re-elected Monday, leader Francois Legault said Thursday.
The Supreme Court of Canada will not hear an appeal of a decision that ordered a third trial for a woman who has twice been convicted of killing her two daughters.
A number of Ottawa homeowners want swift action after they allege a man they hired to perform major heating and cooling work took their money months ago without completing or—in some cases—even starting the jobs.
Construction crews working at an apartment building in Vanier have uncovered human remains at the site.
Former Ottawa police chief Vern White is leaving the Senate about a decade after being appointed to the job.
Erb, the co-founder of one of Canada’s largest trucking companies, was found dead inside her Baden, Ont. home on Saturday.
A Kitchener couple is devastated after their twin newborns are both being treated for bacterial meningitis.
Here are the events planned to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Waterloo region
A number of events are being organized in Waterloo region to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Friday Sept. 30.
Saskatoon police may have located the remains of a Saskatoon woman who has been missing since September 2020.
A 26-year-old woman injured in a stabbing rampage on James Smith Cree Nation says she doesn’t know why she was attacked.
A worker's serious injury has resulted in a hefty fine for a Saskatoon company.
Ontario Provincial Police are looking for a suspect who tried to get a student to get in his car this week in East Ferris.
Enbridge gas tells CTV News that its five per cent rate hike on Oct. 1 will cost its customers in northeastern Ontario an extra $160 a year, on average. And people in Timmins are unhappy.
The City of North Bay raised the ‘Every Child Matters’ flag Thursday afternoon in a ceremony honouring Canada’s survivors and victims of the residential school system.
Less than 24 hours before the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a push by the Manitoba NDP to make the day a statutory holiday failed in the legislature.
Addressing threats to politicians, Indigenous business leadership and Winnipeg awards on campaign trail
Plenty of news coming from the mayoral campaign Thursday will multiple candidates sharing their latest plans.
Some former Saskatchewan residents experienced hurricane conditions for the first time in Florida this week.
Effects of residential schools, truth and reconciliation discussed at Miyo-wîcîwitowin Day in Regina
Thousands of students, local leaders and members of the public are packed into Mosaic Stadium for Miyo-wîcîwitowin Day, an event discussing residential schools and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.
All Saskatchewan residents 18 years and older who are able to get a COVID-19 booster will be eligible for the Moderna bivalent vaccine as of Thursday, according to a news release from the province.