Since the early days of Alberta’s development, the province has been shaped by the iron rails that crisscross its landscape. The arrival of the transcontinental railway in the late 19th century brought about profound changes to the way of life, facilitating trade, settlement, and economic prosperity. Towns and cities sprung up along the tracks, serving as vital hubs for commerce and transportation.

Today, the legacy of rail continues to shape Alberta and the rest of Canada. While the modes of transportation may have evolved, the spirit of innovation and connectivity remains as strong as ever. As Alberta experiences record population growth and evolving transportation needs, advancing passenger rail infrastructure is essential for enhancing accessibility, efficiency, and connectivity across the province.

Alberta’s Passenger Rail Master Plan will look forward decades and identify concrete actions that can be taken now as well as in the future to build the optimal passenger rail system for the province. The Master Plan will assess the feasibility of passenger rail in the province, including regional (inter-city), commuter and high-speed services.

“A large and efficient passenger rail network stretching across the province has incredible potential. 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.”

Danielle Smith, Premier

“Alberta already has significant public mass transit systems in Calgary and Edmonton for the provincial passenger rail system to build upon. The Master Plan will be a vital tool to guide the province on the next steps in advancing passenger rail. It will provide certainty to the rail sector and ensure the most effective use of tax dollars and government authorities. We look forward to hearing from Albertans and working with municipalities, Indigenous communities and the private sector in advancing passenger rail in the province.”

Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors

Passenger rail services connected to urban mass transit shapes and strengthens regional transportation systems, connects communities, supports jobs and the economy and improves access to housing.

“Canada’s railways appreciate the Alberta government's efforts to conduct a fact-based study on the potential for passenger rail service that recognizes the essential need to protect current and future freight rail capacity. Any proposal to co-locate passenger service in freight corridors must demonstrate the ability to preserve the freight rail capacity required to move goods in support of the province’s economy, today and tomorrow. Rail is the greenest mode of ground transportation for both people and goods.”

Marc Brazeau, president and CEO, Railway Association of Canada

The government’s vision is for an Alberta passenger rail system that includes public, private or hybrid passenger rail, including:

  • a commuter rail system for the Calgary area that connects surrounding communities and the Calgary International Airport to downtown;
  • a commuter rail system for the Edmonton area that connects surrounding communities and the Edmonton International Airport to downtown;
  • regional rail lines from Calgary and Edmonton to the Rocky Mountain parks;
  • a regional rail line between Calgary and Edmonton, with a local transit hub in Red Deer;
  • municipal-led LRT systems in Calgary and Edmonton that integrate with the provincial passenger rail system; and
  • rail hubs serving the major cities that would provide linkages between a commuter rail system, regional rail routes and municipal-led mass transit systems.

The vision includes a province-led “Metrolinx-like” Crown corporation with a mandate to develop the infrastructure and oversee daily operations, fare collection/booking systems, system maintenance, and planning for future system expansion.

“At VIA Rail our vision for integrated mobility means dreaming of a future where a passenger can easily switch between commuter rail, light transit, transit buses, and regional trains in an agile and simple way. We've already initiated a number of exchanges with partners, and we intend to step up the pace in the coming months and years. I can assure you that as integrated mobility becomes an increasingly important topic of conversation in Alberta, VIA Rail will be there to play a unifying role.”

Mario Péloquin, president and CEO, VIA Rail Canada

Alberta’s Passenger Rail Master Plan will ensure government has the required information to make decisions based on where passenger rail delivers the best return on investment. The plan will provide a cost-benefit analysis and define what is required by government, including a governance and delivery model, legislation, funding, and staging to implement passenger rail in Alberta. This work will include a 15-year delivery plan that will prioritize and sequence investments.

“We are excited to see the province taking the next step in committing to regional and intercity rail. This Passenger Rail Master Plan aims to set out a vision for a comprehensive rail network in our province that’s long overdue. We are thrilled to see this process move forward.”

Justin Simaluk, president, Rail for Alberta Society

The Master Plan will take into account future growth, planning for the growing provincial population and considering the use of hydrogen-powered trains to ensure a robust and effective passenger rail system to serve Albertans for years to come.

Development of the Master Plan will include engagement with Albertans to gain their perspectives for the future of passenger rail in Alberta. 

Alberta’s government has released a Request for Expression of Interest to seek world-class knowledge and consultant services as a first step toward the development of the Passenger Rail Master Plan for Alberta. Following this process, a Request for Proposal will be issued to select a consultant to develop the Passenger Rail Master Plan. The Master Plan is expected to be completed by summer 2025.

Quick facts

  • Passenger rail includes:
    • Commuter rail – passenger rail that primarily operates within a metropolitan area, connecting commuters to a central city from adjacent suburbs or surrounding commuter towns, and is often traditional heavy-rail
    • Regional rail – passenger rail that operates beyond the limits of urban areas and provides inter-city passenger rail transport services and can be traditional heavy-rail or high-speed rail
    • Light-rail transit (LRT) – urban passenger rail transit that typically operates small, frequent train service in an urban area. Calgary and Edmonton use LRT as part of their mass transit systems
  • Passenger rail in Alberta is currently limited to two tourism-focused services, VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer, and LRT in Calgary and Edmonton.
  • Budget 2024 includes $9 million to support the development of the Passenger Rail Master Plan this year.

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