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Letter: Dual mode bus/train could be answer on rail line

The E&N failed, in part, because there was only ever one train in one direction

Dual mode bus/train could be answer on rail line

To: The Honourable Mr. Rob Fleming, cabinet minister, Transportation and Infrastructure

Dear Sir:

I respectfully request that you and your cabinet colleagues look upon the issue of the Island Rail Corridor with fresh eyes and think about it quite differently.

As one who used to ride the E&N Dayliner in the days when there was a VIA station at the foot of Johnson Street, it is very disappointing to see the deterioration of the abandoned line. This is, of course, exacerbated by government going “all in” on car-centric infrastructure on the Island. The lack of rail on the replacement Johnson Street bridge may have sealed the fate of conventional rolling stock as a viable rail option. As one who now resides in the Cowichan, I can say that it will be a real disincentive for people from north of the Malahat to take southbound rail if the terminus is in Esquimalt and there have to be transfers to other modes of transport get to the rest of Victoria.

There could be another option. ( It is my understanding that for less cost the rail bed could be rehabilitated to support the dual-mode bus/train as its weight tolerances and other technical specifications would not have to be upgraded to the same level as previous type of rolling stock. Additional advantages would be that a vehicle with sets of both rubber and steel wheels could leave the rails at level crossings to do pick ups and drop offs at transit hubs or urban centres.

Furthermore, the E&N failed, in part, because there was only ever one train in one direction. And that, in fact, was the wrong direction. With several smaller units, there would be far more flexibility in having multi-timed routes in both directions and with the dual mode there would be greater ease in giving way to two-way traffic without having to incur the cost of new rail switching and sidings. A bit of asphalt for the bus alongside the track to pull over and then remount the rails would be all that would be needed.

The current problem with commuter adoption of inter-city transit is that it travels on the same highway with all the other vehicles, personal and commercial, and gets slowed and stuck by the same congestion plaguing those roads. By putting buses on rail, a much faster and unobstructed commute would have obvious selling points. Work to co-ordinate schedules with other BC Transit routes would provide additional incentives.

From the perspective of emergency measures, in times of highway closure the ability for buses to rescue stranded car travelers and then transport them to safety on the alternate route of the rail line would be invaluable. This is without even evaluating how they might be able to transport emergency supplies or workers. There is currently huge pressure to identify and build enormously expensive alternative emergency routes all while the existing corridor is neglected.

And let us not overlook the opportunity to make real money through tourism. Done properly, re-activating the rail corridor could pay for itself. Dual mode buses could pick up cruise passengers at Ogden Point and drive to Esquimalt. Without having to get off the bus, tourists would be amazed to find themselves traveling along a rail line with stunning views of the Saanich Inlet and then be let out at a farmers’ market or other tourist destination along the rail line and then have a scheduled pick-up point with the bus and make the return trip back to their ships.

As you are no doubt aware, government’s entanglement in the extremely expensive practice of constant road building for cars has been a waste of money as road congestion has only worsened. In an honest cost comparison, repair of the rail line to a specification that could carry dual mode buses and reduce the wear and tear on the Malahat surely would prove economically viable.

Thank you for your time and attention as well as your continued service to our beautiful province.

C. Ronald

North Cowichan