I’ve been curious about the feasibility of getting the Calgary to Edmonton rail passenger service up and running once again. So I asked those on the forums at trains.com to see what information I could get.
Apparently it’s been a rumour that has been circulating since 1978. Speed of passenger trains would have to be kept at 39 miles an hour as converting to high speed would cost more than construction of the Fort MacMurray tar sands. With approximately 200 level crossings between Calgary and Edmonton, collisions with vehicles are inevitable. While most are accidents, there are some that are suicides, a hard thing for train crews to deal with. I was told that after two or three of these suicide crashes from the summer of 1985, the Federal Government agreed to discontinue passenger rail service due to the stress placed on rail employees and paying customers.
Land conditions north of Calgary presented another problem as it was too soft to support a HSR route. At one time Airdrie, just north of Calgary, had the highest number of complaints against Canadian Pacific Railway. Residents kept insisting on having a commuter service to Calgary. With Calgary expanding the way it has, it’s made Airdire essentially a bedroom community of the big city. It could make commuter service more feasible now, much like the West Coast Express between Mission and Vancouver.
Passenger service between Calgary and Edmonton was discontinued for several other reasons. A big problem was aging equipment that barely met minimum standards by law. Plus passenger comforts was apparently quite bad, which wasn’t good for getting any return business. Then there is the divided highway between Calgary and Edmonton that hampered rail passenger service. One can drive between the two cities in three hours as opposed to four and a half hours by train.
Government cutbacks haven’t helped matters. Government bureaucracy sometimes moves at the same speed as a herd of turtles, so one can imagine when funding rail passenger service will happen.
By Ron Murdock