Calgary – Banff passenger rail project investigates use of hydrogen power on new line

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Liricon Capital and Plenary Americas have advanced the first stage of Phase 4 (Design) for the Calgary Airport – Banff Rail (CABR) project in Canada by achieving 11 key milestones, including investigating hydrogen rolling stock and supply alternatives for the new rail line.

The CABR system will operate on a new, dedicated passenger line built within the existing CP Rail freight corridor and will provide high frequency, reliable service between seven destinations: Calgary Airport, Calgary Downtown, Calgary Keith, Cochrane, Morley (Stoney Nakoda), Canmore and Banff.

CABR aims to position Alberta as North America’s leader in passenger rail by providing the fastest direct airport to downtown rail connection, the only urban to world class recreation rail connection, the only multi-class, high frequency service, and the first hydrogen powered service.

Liricon/Plenary submitted an Enhanced Unsolicited Proposal in November 2021 to the Government of Alberta’s Ministry of Transportation, Invest Alberta Corporation, and the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) to advance the CABR project from Phase 3 (Development) to Phase 4 (Design). Liricon/Plenary reviewed the proposal with Alberta Transportation and CIB in February and March 2022.

Since then, Liricon/Plenary have achieved 11 important milestones including obtaining an improved economic impact analysis; developing a solution for region-wide transportation through a Calgary Airport rail hub; initiating an operations integration strategy with the potential Edmonton-Calgary High Speed Rail project; investigating hydrogen rolling stock and supply alternatives and improving ridership forecasts.

According to Liricon/Plenary, these achievements will decrease the time to complete Phase 4 (Design), reduce development risk and enhance the attractiveness of the proposal.

The CABR project aims to be the first hydrogen powered passenger rail line in North America. Liricon/Plenary have conducted significant research on the potential for CABR to use hydrogen-powered rolling stock. This research has entailed multiple meetings and site visits with the major hydrogen rolling stock providers including Alstom, Siemens, and Sumitomo.

While Liricon/Plenary have not selected a rolling stock provider at this time, this study of alternatives has increased Liricon/Plenary’s confidence that hydrogen-powered systems are feasible systems for CABR. In subsequent stages of CABR’s Design Phase, the specific rolling stock provider will be selected.

Liricon/Plenary have also studied potential hydrogen supply alternatives in the Calgary Airport vicinity. They have investigated solutions with major hydrogen supply companies including TC Energy and Suncor. Based on this research, CABR is confident that there will be readily available hydrogen supply for CABR’s hydrogen powered systems for a refueling depot, most likely on Calgary Airport lands.

In support of CABR, Alstom president & CEO Americas, Michael Keroullé said, “Hydrogen rolling stock is ideally suited for application on the Calgary-Banff Rail corridor in terms of length of alignment, alignment characteristics and capacity. We firmly believe Alberta possess all the characteristics to become the flag-bearer of hydrogen trains on this side of the Atlantic and we are very keen to help the province realize what will be recognized as an iconic project throughout the world.”

Liricon is the family holding company of Banff locals Jan and Adam Waterous, who have been facilitating the planning and stakeholder support for the CABR Project for more than five years. To drive success for the project, Liricon has already entered a long-term lease of the historic Banff Train Station and entered an MOU with CP Rail to utilize the CP Rail Corridor for the project. Meanwhile, Plenary is the largest dedicated PPP developer in North America.

The further advancement of the CABR project requires the Government of Alberta to match funding of up to CA$10 million that is being contributed by each of Liricon/Plenary and CIB, to complete second stage of Phase 4 (Design) and achieve a final investment decision.

Liricon/Plenary will then fund the third and fourth stages of the Design Phase (permitting and financial close), budgeted at a total of CA$75 million.

The project is uniquely low risk to Alberta taxpayers since the structure proposed for CABR is a public-private-partnership, which is designed to share commercial risks across multiple partners, including risks relating to capital costs, ridership, and revenue.