E&N rail line a valuable asset
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Citizen for the editorial “Rail is an asset”. It is particularly insightful and points out one of the key factors relative to the value of restoring the E&N rail corridor. It’s the matter of cost! The editorial notes, and rightly so, that the McKenzie interchange is currently estimated to be costing $96 million and will likely end up over $100 million when it is complete. The fact is, it is not even an interchange, it is only an overpass intersection. Making the cost even more exorbitant when you consider its limited effect on relieving the pressure on the highway.
As for Pat Mulcahy’s letter there are a number of inaccuracies that need to be corrected. First of all Mr. Larry Stevenson is NOT a lapdog to Dennis Washington the owner of Southern Rail. In fact Southern Rail is only a contracted operator and has nothing extra to gain other than what they are contracted to do on behalf of the Island Corridor Foundation. As for Mr. Stevenson, he has over 25 years of rail experience with both the Canadian National Railway and the Kansas City Southern in management operations. Giving him a high level of rail experience which is very valuable when it comes to the future of the rail corridor and knowing what is and is not relevant in the provincial assessment of the rail corridor. The mandate and vision of the ICF was and is to protect the corridor for current and future use for the benefit of Vancouver Island.
It should be noted as well that the corridor already has many miles of trails alongside the rail infrastructure. With more to come. The regional districts are working with the Foundation to add more trail infrastructure along the right-of-way. I would also point out that the CVRD does NOT pay the ICF a half-million dollars per year; in fact no monies are given to the ICF at all.
As for the term “moribund”, nothing could be further from the truth. This rail corridor is a very valuable asset and can be put back into full service with an expenditure of less than $300 million. That also is an amount that would provide a medium quality system. This would provide opportunities for inter city passenger services, freight, tourist and a form of commuter transportation. The other key issue is that it can be done incrementally. First from Langford to Victoria which would move people through the areas of major population.
The other area that has great and current potential is the Nanaimo to Port Alberni portion. There are freight and tourist rail opportunities on that portion of the system that can be up and running very quickly. It should also be pointed out that numerous railways around the world are being restored and put back into service that mirror the E&N almost completely. One in Scotland that is already looking at electrification has become popular. Rail throughout the world is the way to go and why not Canada getting into the 21st century too?
As a last point, there will be a need for governments to do projects that will provide employment when our pandemic crisis is over. Here on Vancouver Island the ties, ballast, along with other materials, not to mention high quality labour are in very good supply. Time to stop the rhetoric and get on with the work of giving Vancouver Island exactly what it needs. Our population is growing in leaps and bounds and exists primarily along the rail corridor. We know everything we need to know, let’s just “DO IT”.