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Recently the Island Corridor Foundation asked what they would like to see happen with the E&N Railroad.
Leonardo Da Vinci and Albert Einstein were known for their vision and imagination. Leonardo’s visions of the future included airplanes, helicopters and cameras. Einstein once expressed “imagination is more important than information.” Drawing on this allows many to imagine the potential for the train and corridor.
What is the highest and best use of the service?
It was designed to transport goods and people from Victoria up island. Many would agree a properly designed commuter line is practical ‘if’ the equipment and its connections are updated.
In essence, the train line has to connect to other services, buses, the airport and ferry terminals, etc. For the good of us all, it should become an efficient form of mass transportation.
The transportation industry is once again on the threshold of great change. In an era where the auto industry is being subsidized, we have to recognize the significance of this.
In the last century, recall the transition from coal to oil? This had a dramatic effect on the economy of Vancouver Island and the rest of the world for that matter.
The local mine companies and the communities they supported received subsidies as demand for coal diminished. Any of the former Pontiac car dealers and their employees could explain the underlying pains associated with change of this magnitude.
Oil replaced coal. What will replace oil?
It may be too early to predict but it does not hurt to start planning. Imagine the equivalent of the Silicon Valley on our own doorstep, only this one devoted entirely to the development of environmentally sensitive forms of transportation?
Could we not begin specializing in the development and/or testing of human powered and/or technologically enhanced ways of getting around? In honouring the original intent of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway, we could put a new spin on an old name, call it the E2 & N2 proposal.
New ideas and technologies are needed. Land grants along the E&N could be offered to anyone willing to invest in developing new, environmentally safe forms of transportation, and all the associated products and services.
Bombardier, a Canadian company already making new trains elsewhere in the world, could be one of the partners invited to participate. Imagine the potential.
New products and services could improve those already existing. Can you picture a hydro-powered aerial tram or even a passenger balloon running from Courtenay’s lovely main street to the lofty peak of Mount Washington?
Why not equip a train to run on methane tapped from the old coal mines in Nanaimo and Cumberland? Running parallel to the current railway tracks, a bike trail from Victoria to the Comox Valley and beyond would prove enormously popular for recreational enthusiasts.
We could make better use of our legacy.
Old train stations could be transformed into centers for recreationalists, a new category of RV park could serve the bicyclists, back packers and hikers.
Using the existing easements, the trail could be extended first to Campbell River, and then to the North Island- a virtual highway for health.
Other uses come to mind.
Why not equip several cars with some of the state of the art medical technology now found only in Victoria? If it made regular trips up island the savings could be used to improve equipment. Or, why not have an extended track link right to the hospitals where such equipment is already available?
Other services could also be made more accessible to those in either direction, markets, museum, theatre, recreation and so forth.
What other benefits can be envisioned?
Two obvious ones are jobs and the environment. For inventors, there would be an opportunity to create new marketable products. For the local education industry, it could provide the springboard for a local school of engineering.
Marketing the corridor could become the pet project of the many local schools of business already serving the communities. Jobs follow investments and industries feed on each other to create wealth and prosperity. Ideas successful here could be used on other recreational trails, the Trans Canada Trail comes to mind.
In summary, the island corridor is a tremendous asset with great potential. At a minimum, it can be used to serve the future transportation needs of the communities it connects.
Using some imagination and a vision, it could also serve as a highway of health and venue for futuristic innovation and new opportunities. All it takes is a shared sense of direction.
James Allan Krause,
Editor's note: James Allan Krause, PhD, is the senior technical writer at ILS Learning Corp. and has recently published a novel entitled Wetion, his fourth book.