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Letter: Raise your voice for rail

It is far cheaper to reconstruct an existing railway than to construct a brand new road

Raise your voice for rail

By March 14 of this year, a decision regarding the fate of the E&N Railway will have been made by senior level (federal and provincial) government. Although the outcome rests mainly on the success of negotiations between the government factions, the First Nations whose lands are affected, and ICF (Island Corridor Foundation) representatives, the level of concern voiced by the general public will also play an important part.

Over the past three decades, it has become painfully clear to south Island residents that the need for safe, reliable, and “green” transportation has become ever more urgent. However, the demands of steeply fluctuating gas prices, the curtailment of inter city bus transit, and the increase in those who either cannot drive nor afford a vehicle, can all be met by the restoration of the E&N line as a modern multi-purpose railway system, combining tourism, freight, and commuter travel. According to recent provincial government studies, the traffic volume produced by the steadily expanding south Island population will reduce the speed of road travel to such a snail-like pace that a 1912 steam locomotive puffing up the Malahat grade from Victoria to Cobble Hill (with 10 stops along the way) in less than 90 minutes, would beat the projected (2038) travel time of a modern vehicle, 87-144 minutes driving from Victoria to Mill Bay.

Consider the economic factor as well. It is far cheaper to reconstruct an existing railway than to construct a brand new road. One kilometre of rail upgrade with new ballast, ties, and continuous welded steel would cost $2.6 million whereas various road options would cost $19 million per kilometre (Vancouver Island Transportation Corridor Coalition).

Like it or not, the era of reliance upon highways as the sole means of mass transportation is coming to an obvious end. Other “alternative” inland routes have been examined and discounted due to legal challenges, environmental issues, and the prohibitive cost of expropriating private land. Only the E&N corridor has emerged as a true contender.

If you would like to exchange the tedium and tension of gridlock for a much safer and comfortable trip (the train route passes through beautiful scenery!), visit friends and family, or attend appointments elsewhere on the line, please send a short note of support soon to our premier, David Eby, and Cc it to Rob Fleming, minister of Transportation, plus your local MLA, MP, and mayor or area director.

Mary Desmond

Shawnigan Lake