THE government of the Canadian province of Alberta has announced details of a master plan aimed at developing mainline passenger, commuter and urban transit services.

The government’s 2024 budget includes a $C 9m ($US 6.6m) allocation towards the plan and the government has issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) to seek consultancy services for the project. This will be followed by a Request for Proposals (RFP) from which the consultant will be selected to deliver the masterplan by summer 2025.

Among the specific projects that the plan is expected to explore are:

  • a commuter rail system for the Calgary area that connects surrounding communities and Calgary International Airport to the city centre
  • a commuter network for the Edmonton area that connects surrounding communities and Edmonton International Airport to the city centre
  • regional rail lines from Calgary and Edmonton to national and provincial parks in the Canadian Rocky Mountains
  • a regional rail line between Calgary and Edmonton, serving a local transit hub in Red Deer
  • municipal-led light rail networks in Calgary and Edmonton that integrate with the provincial passenger system, and
  • rail hubs serving the major cities that would provide connections between commuter and regional services and municipal-led mass transit systems.

The government says the plan will assess the feasibility of introducing these services and will identify concrete actions that can be taken now and in the future to “build the optimal passenger rail system for the province,” considering future population growth.

The vision also includes the introduction of a government-led company with similar functions to Ontario’s Metrolinx. This will include a mandate to develop infrastructure and oversee daily operations, fare collection and booking systems, as well as infrastructure maintenance, and planning for future network expansion.

The masterplan will include a 15-year delivery plan that will prioritise and sequence investments. It will also provide a cost:benefit analysis of specific schemes to provide the government with sufficient information to make informed decisions based on where passenger rail will deliver the best return on investment. In addition, it will clearly define what is required by government to implement passenger rail service, including a governance and delivery model, legislation, funding, and staging as well as considering the use of hydrogen-powered trains.

“A large and efficient passenger rail network stretching across the province has incredible potential,” says Alberta premier, Ms Danielle Smith. “It represents a forward-looking vision and is a mobility solution for our rapidly-growing province and I’m excited to watch this plan take shape and bring us into the future. There’s a lot of work ahead of us, but I’m confident that we will build the network Albertans need to improve daily life and work, boost the economy and take away the stress of long-distance travel.”