Whitehorse Daily Star

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ON TRACK – The Alaska-Alberta Railway Corp. – A2A – is advancing its proposal for a 2,400-kilometre standard-gauge railway from Edmonton and Fort McMurray to Alaska. Inset Sean McCoshen Photos courtesy A2A

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TENTATIVE ROUTE – A2A has plotted a route for its proposed railway from Alaska to Alberta. But the corporation says there is much more work to do in refining the route, particularly consultation to be carried out with communities and First Nations. Photos courtesy A2A

Ambitious railway dream is gathering steam

The Alaska-to-Alberta railway project is putting boots on the ground in Alberta, the project’s executive team announced Wednesday.

By Chuck Tobin on July 10, 2020

The Alaska-to-Alberta railway project is putting boots on the ground in Alberta, the project’s executive team announced Wednesday.

“The Executive Team of the Alaska-Alberta Railway Corporation (A2A Rail) has commissioned engineering firm HDR to immediately commence with detailed land surveying along the Alberta segment of the railway’s proposed route,” says a press release.

“HDR will work with respected local contractors and subcontractors, including Quantum Spatial, a geospatial analytics pioneer, and Lawson, a certified Indigenous owned and controlled surveying firm.

“Having secured funding for this critical pre-construction activity, A2A Rail and its technical team will now embark on a 3-month planned process of field investigation and topographic modeling.”

The intent of the privately funded proposal is to build a railway to connect Alberta and Canada’s national railway network to deep water ports in Alaska.

The proposed route would run through a corner of the Northwest Territories and across the Yukon to link up with the railway system in Alaska.

A2A founder Sean McCoshen explained in an interview Thursday that moving forward with the route selection in Alberta is a reflection of the confidence A2A has in the project.

While the closure of the Yukon border has prohibited any direct contact lately with Yukon First Nations and communities, they have spoken to them and to the Yukon government, he said.

McCoshen, the CEO and chair of A2A, said there is enthusiasm in the territory about the proposal, and the government has reached out to A2A.

“I think this is something the people of the Yukon collectively want,” said the founder.

He said it’s absolutely critical the project has the support and involvement of communities and First Nations, particularly in the route selection as they are the most familiar with the lands they live in.

The railway will provide jobs, would raise the standard of living for communities and provide the Yukon with a substantial boost to its gross domestic product, he said.

McCoshen said the project will create benefits for generations to come.

The total investment to date by A2A is $110 million, he said.

A2A is hoping to see the railway operational by the middle to latter part of this decade, Wenesday’s press release noted.

“A2A Rail continues to gather momentum,” McCoshen said in the release.

“The start of surveying activities means that we are now officially ‘boots on the ground’ here in Alberta.

“Combining that with our progress on completing our feasibility study, it is safe to say that A2A Rail has advanced well beyond the early idea first investigated by the Van Horne institute, into a mature infrastructure project only months away from breaking ground.”

A2A envisions a railway that will provide an alternative link to the Pacific region for goods being shipped overseas from Canada and Alaska or goods being shipped to Canada and Alaska.

It’s expected the railway would shorten the time it takes to ship or receive goods by two to four days, given Alaska’s geographic location and the existing wait times at busy west coast ports being used now.

The 2,400-kilometre (1,500-mile) standard gauge railway would tie Alberta to North Pole, Alaska, and the state’s existing railway network.

A2A has already signed an agreement with Alaska Railway to work together to build the section from North Pole to the Yukon-Alaska border.

Alaska’s legislature – the Senate and the House of Representatives – has already voted their support for the project.

The railway would open up a new transportation option to ship natural resources from northern Canada and Alaska to global markets, A2A maintains.

“This is a world-class infrastructure project that will generate more than 18,000 jobs for Canadian workers at a time when they are most needed, provide a new, more efficient route for trans-Pacific shipping and thereby link Alberta to world markets, McCoshen said Wenesday’s release.

“The new rail line will create new economic development opportunities for a wide range of businesses, communities and Indigenous communities in Canada and Alaska. We estimate that A2A Rail could unlock Cdn. $60 billion in additional cumulative GDP through 2040 and lift household incomes by an average of 40 per cent.”

McCoshen said Thursday A2A wants to joint-venture with communities and First Nations along the route, it wants to provide them with equity in the project.

There is great promise and potential in a new railway link to Alaska’s ports, he said.

“It makes a tremendous amount of sense,” McCoshen said. “I have always said to people who will listen, ‘I can’t believe this has not been built.’”

“... The process that has started in Alberta will be started in the Yukon in time,” he said.

McCoshen is a businessman based in Canada and the U.S. who has developed major infrastructure projects around the world.

“I’ve learned one thing,” McCoshen is quoted as saying in the A2A brochure circulated last year.

“Projects happen when they are a win-win for the major stakeholders involved. I believe this is one of those projects.”

Comments (34)

Up 0 Down 0

Mitch Gingras on Sep 30, 2020 at 5:40 am

Sounds nafarious. Ask why they purposely call the tracks 'freight tracks'. Does oil pass as freight? And if it's good enough for freight, it's good enough for passengers, military, etc.

Up 0 Down 3

Bob on Sep 27, 2020 at 6:22 am

You ever realize A2A is actually Asia to America. Look at the maps.. they’re blatantly showing faster shipping to middle America : Chicago. They’re just using this as an accuse to get a permit to tramp right through Canada.

Up 3 Down 3

Russ Czuleger on Jul 17, 2020 at 3:49 pm

I support the railroad idea. Lots of comments have been made about a pipeline for water south to the USA. Here in California we have a system that moves water from north to south. It was built in the 1960's and is not a pipeline. More like a small river in size. The canal to the USA from Canada would need to be the size of a medium to large river and would not follow this proposed rail line in general. Also the water project would cost much more than the railroad.

Up 3 Down 17

Jack C. on Jul 16, 2020 at 6:05 am

Well if anything does become of this they can thank the Pat Duncan Liberals for having the foresight to get a right-of-way clearance through the Territory for a pipeline that didn't emerge.
I also like the talk of a water pipeline to service a drought stricken mid-west that is only getting dryer. This may prove to be more important than a rail line.

Up 14 Down 8

yukonmom on Jul 14, 2020 at 5:52 pm

Reminds me of the monorail project on the Simpsons!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4z_9NcIJXI, sounds like a vacuum for government funding.

Up 18 Down 18

woodcutter on Jul 14, 2020 at 10:21 am

Heard this before and as before, it's dead before it even gets off the ground.

Not enough freight, incredible engineering issue's and a line of hype that hits on all the right words that stir the ramblings of every right wingnut. Those ramblings, while mostly valid, also stray into stereo types that promote hate, based on ignorance and cheap politics.

Any proposed rail line will ultimately traverse the lands of many First Nation. Several of these first Nations are in ongoing land claims, that Government has dragged their feet on for decades, many First Nations have existing self government agreements with governing powers. All of this should slow down the planning process, as these governments also have their own process before they can provide the seal of approval. Since all of this rail line will cross First Nation Land, why should they not be a primary beneficiary ?

Good luck - you're going to need it, however I have no confidence that this will happen by the end of the decade, let alone in 5 years, however with the regime in Alberta, you could get to the border by then, and in the mean time, there's funding grants to write, so all their consultant friends can milk that cow.

Up 17 Down 22

Sheepchaser on Jul 13, 2020 at 4:07 pm

It’s interesting to see some well written propaganda on the comments section here. A2A must have a PR firm already.

Yukoners, don’t let yourselves be manipulated. Yes we want progress. On our terms. That works for us. They will make big promises. The idea is to build a feeling of desperation amongst the electorate. Unrealistic dreams only just out of reach unless we give the nice corporate folks what they want. They are working for their own best interest. The numbers will look amazing. The reality, as ever, will be very different.

Be wary of speculative capitalism. If the project made sense in plain language, they wouldn’t be confusing the issue with all kinds of aspirational adjectives. The bigger the sales pitch, the more disappointing the product.

Up 14 Down 26

Rick Duff on Jul 13, 2020 at 3:34 pm

RED ALERT REAL YUKONERS !

This is an obvious part of the Alberta Oil Industries plan to control and annex
THE Yukon

Up 20 Down 20

Charlie's Aunt on Jul 13, 2020 at 2:17 pm

Belatedly noticed there is a 2nd picture posted of the proposed route. Only YT community on that map is Whitehorse. If it is half-baked accurate, the route bypasses Whitehorse some way to North. It might hit W. Lake but how is this going to benefit anyone except Alberta & Alaska?

Up 27 Down 20

JC on Jul 13, 2020 at 11:43 am

Wilf Carter. I agree with everything you say in your comment. But, as I said, there are too many greenys, lib/socialist governments and others out there who have the power to shut anything good and prosperous down. Most of these live on the taxpayers dime and don't want to see progress, because it embarrasses them and puts them on a guilt trip. So, they have the time to go on protest marches when others, because of their daily works schedules can't. And I know for sure, there are billionaires - like George Soros out there that slip them a fifty to do their grunt work for them. And you know the old saying, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease". Maybe it's time for a leader to come forward and organize the silent majority. Plenty of millionaires in the Yukon sitting on their money. Even the employers could help by giving the employees a bit of time off during the day to march for progress and prosperity. The silent majority needs to start squeaking very loud and clear.

Up 19 Down 13

JC on Jul 13, 2020 at 11:24 am

The Hammer: You say they should pump the fresh water from Yukon's many lakes and give it to a parched America? Fine, but how are you going to get it to them? By cloud formation? I don't have any problem with giving some of our fresh water to the south, but it will have to be transported. How? By rail, tanker trucks or pipeline. But as I said in my previous comment, because of the opposition from certain greeny groups and others. I don't see either coming to the Yukon in my lifetime.

Up 20 Down 18

Yukon Cornelius on Jul 13, 2020 at 9:24 am

@Sheepchaser, B. Miller & skeptical:
You folks hit the nail on the head. The last time these carpetbaggers hit the Yukon was in 2017 when Kinder Morgan announced that it was backing out of the then proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline (design-built to pump diluted Bitumen from the Alberta Tar Sands to BC ports).

Back then (before the Bearded Wonder in Ottawa decided to spend $4.5B of taxpayers' money to buy the Trans Mountain Pipeline in May 2018) the A2A project was deemed both environmentally and financially infeasible due to the risk of derailment and ensuing environmental damage in the event that any or all of its heated diluted Bitumen laden tanker cars ended up at the bottom of a ravine or in a stream. Now that the Bearded Wonder has succeeded in quashing all Indigenous opposition to Trans Mountain expansion, projects like A2A are redundant.

Prior to the re-emergence of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, the financial litmus test for A2A was predicated on the price of Western Canadian Select (WCS) oil from the Alberta Tar Sands (which is still far below the minimum required price to make A2A financially feasible). Now that the Bearded Wonder in Ottawa has bought himself a pipeline and Canadian GDP has fallen 11 per cent due to the global Coronavirus Pandemic, these carpetbaggers once again emerge from the woodwork.

Environmental concerns aside, just as it wasn't financially viable for A2A to haul Bitumen, there isn't enough demand for freight to make A2A financially viable. Worse is the growing concern of Western Governments over China's expansion, aggression and its Belt and Road Initiative which has given Western Government's pause for concern about how, or if they want to trade with China.

Like most 'projects' like A2A, the real profit is in the heavily government-funded 'studies' and 'surveying'. Follow the money.

Up 29 Down 20

Wilf Carter on Jul 11, 2020 at 3:53 pm

Interesting comments mostly in favor. Actual some very points of view thanks for your input. At least this paper permits the community to speak its mind not like YN which has cut off people.
Any way I have worked on this project from a reviewer point of view and set in on the first discussions of this rail project.
This project can move lots of things and is more cost effective then trucking, water, airplane. Much larger volumes can be carried by this mode of transportation make the economy cost effective.
The cost saving on highway up keep alone would be in the $10 of millions for Alaska, Yukon, BC and AB. These cost saving alone pays for the carrying cost of this project from operation and finance point of view also which means much less cost for all governments on up keep.
The rail line to Fort Mac is key to moving goods to west coast from all of western Canada whom ever wants to export goods overseas to Asia.
This will open up the door to more markets for Canadian goods and create 10,000 of new jobs. Just take our grain which is in high demand in Asian and India countries. Billions of tons per year.
YES Yukon can ship its goods from our resource sector through the same network of transportation.
Mining would be first ore, oil and gas of Yukon would not be locked in any more and can be sold and Yukon government would receive billions in tax revenues.
The Rail line will not come close to Whitehorse but run by Carmacks, Faro etc.
Here the interesting opportunity for this is hydro projects with which is 100% green energy. Hydro can be built environmental safe and improved habitat for fish and wildlife would be better.
Western provinces are crying for green energy like AB and are prepared to be part of it if the right package was put together showing the benefits to the projects environmentally, with cost benefit analysis.
Most people do not understand how cost benefit works especially the federal government.
BC has become too log jammed in things that they don't understand and are driving away business. NWT can use this route for their resources and supply chain to their region.
The biggest hold back to Canadian goods and our economy is supply chain networks.
For example, St Lawrence river has become not safe to sail through because of the garbage and sewage that's been dumped into it so other sources of transportation that is reliable has to be found.
In summary this is a great project and you would have less trucks on the road going through the Yukon making it much safer to drive on.
Here's the interest point; this train will reduce the amount of carbon in the Yukon by 45% because 60% of the carbon in the Yukon comes from trucking.
To make this project more cost effective a power grid from Yukon can run to Fort Mac and supply them green energy and would be more cost effective for all of Canada like James Bay is.
This is a Canadian project for the benefit of all Canadians not just Yukoner or western Canadians like the rail line when is was built.

Up 20 Down 13

Charlie's Aunt on Jul 11, 2020 at 3:09 pm

Sounds good on paper, but like Jc, I expect the NIMBY crowd to be crying foul, just as they have over any plans for new hydro dams. Maybe too early for planned station locations but only way it would benefit local communities & YFN is if some trains stopped there. Just think, Chamber would be really upset when pallet loads of goods from Costco routinely arrived. Maybe they could rip up the narrow gauge & use route to Skagway, but tongue in cheek, North Pole has its benefits; everyone can hop a ride to Santa Claus House to buy decorations!!!

Up 27 Down 9

HarvardYaleAndPrincetonMan on Jul 11, 2020 at 1:25 pm

Will it come through Whitehorse?

We no longer have bus service but we DO have a train station.
Think I'll watch STRANGERS ON A TRAIN this evening.

Up 21 Down 17

Atom on Jul 11, 2020 at 11:25 am

I would pay money to watch McCoshen in the first public meet in a Yukon Community....it would be the last he would attend....but 50 years from now, who knows?

Up 39 Down 18

martin on Jul 11, 2020 at 10:23 am

“I have always said to people who will listen, ‘I can’t believe this has not been built.’” McCoshen said.
Well, it is called "Nation Building" and we haven't done that since the short-sighted NIMBY /enviro movement took root in our society.

Up 22 Down 42

Sheepchaser on Jul 11, 2020 at 9:06 am

And have gigantic spills? No thanks.
If an eighteen wheeler goes over, we can rectify that fairly quickly. When a train derails, it takes out the entire town, valley, river, etc...

If it does go through, you had better hope the Yukon has negotiated a percentage on every drop of oil passing by. AND that that percentage going into the pockets of citizens, not YG slush funds. Otherwise, it’ll be non-stop tarsands sludge running at all hours and Yukoners will get to watch as we end up with the infrastructure maintenance costs and empty pockets.

If Yukoners’ piece of the pie is big, really big and long term then maybe. But otherwise these guys can pound sand.

Up 40 Down 8

moose101 on Jul 11, 2020 at 7:37 am

I'm surprised they aren't going to use the existing rail bed and line of the old BC Northern extension that was started in early seventies and abandoned at Dease Lake in 77 . The almost 400 mile long rail bed is still there with a huge bridge over the Stikine River .

Up 44 Down 11

Gordon Williamson on Jul 11, 2020 at 5:20 am

I think this would be fantastic. Problem is this govt. here in Yukon is so far from even in the mode of thinking anything progressive. They would find more than one way to not have it. We have such a massive transfer payment here and are over loaded with high paid employees'. And then the Federal gov't. would for sure throw a wrench into this one. Yes, I would like to see the days back when people looked for productivity instead of handouts, then something like this could be built.

Up 33 Down 10

Riptide on Jul 10, 2020 at 10:19 pm

JC is right. There's not a chance that this will ever get built. The cost to build this is going to be in the billions, maybe... probably in the 10s of billions. And why... all because some west coast ports are busy? And all it takes to kill this is 1 first nations band saying no. It's a nice thought but I wouldn't get too excited about it because it's never going to happen.

Up 35 Down 17

Jim on Jul 10, 2020 at 9:56 pm

Awesome!!! Finally a large project that will create many jobs for Yukoners, and lower the cost of stuff in the Yukon. Time to make the Yukon great and allow it to grow for many generations to come.

Up 28 Down 3

Dave Laveck on Jul 10, 2020 at 7:51 pm

Yes, I think it’s a great idea. But I’ve seen a few great ideas go under- like the pipeline that never happened. Too many people want to fill their pockets and shoots the cost out of reach. Also there is a rail bed in place at Dease Lake- it was done many years ago and petered out. If First Nations want to invest in Yukon- Power is what we need.

Up 27 Down 13

B. Miller on Jul 10, 2020 at 6:39 pm

This project will not happen as the freight volumes to make it economic don’t exist. It seems every decade or so this project needs to resurrect itself and invariably come to the same conclusion that the ‘timing just isn’t right.’ But wait for it ... I sense that there will be an ask coming for government assistance from this company.

Up 24 Down 5

Dentist on Jul 10, 2020 at 5:49 pm

That 110 million will look like peanuts after the various jurisdictions it passes through have been paid.

Up 22 Down 32

TheHammer on Jul 10, 2020 at 5:45 pm

It's all about Alaska and Alberta. What's the hidden agenda? They talk like Yukon doesn't have resources to exploit. How about the fresh water in our lake systems being pumped out to a parched America? You want my opinion, Yukon is going to get railroaded by these two resource exploitation giants with huge economic problems.

Up 30 Down 34

TheHammer on Jul 10, 2020 at 5:16 pm

'...the people of Yukon collectively want.." No kidding. This guy is speaking for the entire population of Yukon. This could spell the end of Yukon as we know it. Someone's big idea of what they want could wreck the place. These proponents don't even live here and they are telling us what we want. Well I don't for a lot of good reasons.

Up 39 Down 14

Gringo on Jul 10, 2020 at 5:12 pm

There will come a point in the near future that our resources in the ground will need to be exported or used in some fashion. Look at our debt and deficit....what else do we have? Forget all the leftist crap about wind and solar...hogwash. We need our GDP to grow period and exporting maple syrup will not provide for our needs.

Up 76 Down 36

Jc on Jul 10, 2020 at 4:31 pm

Great news. But excuse my pessimism, but because of all the tree huggers and negativity in the Indigenous communities who don't want progress, I will never see it go beyond the survey and feasibility studies. Too many aren't interested in progress or of raising the standard of living - since they get everything free as it is. I have seen this scenario played out too many times in the last 40 years and find it easy to make a negative prediction. And don't count on the present PM and the liberal party. Their agenda is to shut all this kind of progress down. So, just dream on folks. Don't count on a railroad reality show.

Up 45 Down 22

Eric Bissell on Jul 10, 2020 at 4:28 pm

Great boost Canada’s North and Alaska.

Up 45 Down 14

BnR on Jul 10, 2020 at 4:19 pm

“ 'I think this is something the people of the Yukon collectively want,' said the founder."
He thinks it, it must be true.

Up 63 Down 23

Al on Jul 10, 2020 at 4:08 pm

Couldn't agree more. A link such as this is long overdue. Not only will it be another transportation corridor to "the outside" but linking it to the ports in Alaska will permit us to gain the advantage of accessing the coastal barge infrastructure. Fuel will also be an excellent product that can be railed either from the ports in Alaska or from BC or Alberta. The advantages to be gained by reducing truck traffic for fuel is quite considerable. It will not only reduce traffic on the AH but also reduce wear and tear on the highway itself.

This is a win-win for all three northern territories and Alaska.

There will be the usual nay-Sayers who like nothing better then to urinate on someone else's parade. Likely these are the folks that are pay cheque driven with cushy jobs not tied to industry, development or resource based operations.

I for one applaud this initiative.

Up 23 Down 11

Roger Ellis on Jul 10, 2020 at 3:51 pm

I'd like to be kept informed on this proposed project in Yukon & when & which community they want to start with in near future.
Thanks
Roger

Up 52 Down 30

skeptical on Jul 10, 2020 at 3:29 pm

"We estimate that A2A Rail could unlock Cdn. $60 billion in additional cumulative GDP through 2040 and lift household incomes by an average of 40 per cent.”

Well then. If my income is going to go up FORTY PERCENT just because of this railway, oh for sure, build it! My BS meter just went off, big time. These people sound like clowns.

And all the talk about the support of the First Nations? How much do you want to bet they are looking to obtain money from them or through them? Nothing like finding a partner to take the risk.

Proceed with extreme caution.

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