Time to convert the railway to a trail
Late last week the Province of B.C. released another partial study of the E&N corridor. This study put some numbers on what was already known. The corridor infrastructure is in bad shape.
The numbers range from a quarter billion dollars for one slow train a day to almost a half billion dollars for four trains and a commuter service. The numbers are approximately double those of the last study done 10 years ago and that is before paying for the actual trains and the huge fare and maintenance subsidies required. That is a ludicrous amount to pay to restore an old Victorian railway that will take five and a half hours to get to Victoria after leaving Courtenay at 3 a.m. A decent regular bus service would do the trip two hours faster and for a fraction of the cost.
The study talks about upgrading parts of the line for freight. What freight? The significant mines the railway was built for are long gone and the last logging railway shut down years ago.
The continuous corridor is a valuable public asset and it should be maintained and put to good use like other disused rail corridors around the province. For a fraction of the cost of rail, the rail bed can be converted to a multi-use trail and fulfill some of the province’s promise to develop active transportation. In the post-COVID world we are heading for, there will be change. Our actions in the near future will determine whether the changes will lead to safer, more sustainable communities.
How we travel is changing. With less international travel likely, people will choose to travel more locally and the demand for more safe local alternatives to highway travel, already strong, will increase. Tourism, on which so many Island small businesses depend, can develop in a more sustainable way with more emphasis on smaller communities and opportunities for First Nations. A continuous active transportation community trail on the E&N corridor will serve these positive trends by providing the sustainable connectivity the Island needs.
Friends of Rails to Trails – Vancouver Island