Though I think it is more due to his having drained the provincial coffers dry with idiotic spending than any sort of visionary brilliance, Stelmach is right to pretty much drop the concept of the high-speed train between Calgary and Edmonton into the lap of the private sector.
Let’s face it, a bullet-train between Edmonton and Calgary is simply an unviable pie-in-the-sky concept that is best left to people’s imagination. Rest assured, if there was really any need for such as project the private sector would already be racing to get a piece of this.
Already too much money has been spent in studying the viability of this project. The studies continually find that a high-speed train would cost a fortune and the utilization would not justify the project. In one of the sudies conducted in 2004, it was found that only 3% of Albertans who travel highway 2 would consider parking their cars and taking a high-speed train. Those who take the bus or fly are at 35% and 46% in consideration. This will depend on ticket price of course which likely would be huge.
So, the only way this train would happen would be with billions and billions of taxpayer’s dollars. In order to get people to ride, taxpayers would likely have to subsidize the tickets. Even with all of that, we would only see a 3% drop in traffic on highway 2 where the problem is. What we may see however is a strong blow to the successful bus and airlines who provide transportation between Edmonton and Calgary. Come to think of it, it is surprising that Stelmach would pass up such an opportunity to beat on successful private companies. He does seem to enjoy doing such.
Part of the reason that Eddie would not like to initiate such a vanity project is the timeline. In Alberta we can’t even get a powerline approved accross the province. Can you imagine how long it would take to expropriate the land required for a bullet-train? How many impact studies? How many court challenges? Even if we began today, we would be lucky to see the train moving for decades. Eddie will want a more immediate legacy project.
The drive between Edmonton and Calgary is only three hours. Depending on the vehicle, one can expect to spend about $50 in fuel going both ways. Taking a bullet-train would cost at least that much going one way. While the train trip would only take one hour, the rider will then have to either get a taxi, rent a car or take a bus to wherever they are going. Lets not forget that Calgary will doubtless gouge the riders for parking at the station. Is it really a wonder why so few people would actually use this train?
It is past time to put this concept on the shelf forever. If some strange and wealth philanthropist wants to spend their dollars to build this thing then by all means. Alberta would be better served by expanding the capacity of highway 2. That is realistic in scope and that is where the need is.