LETTER: Economic value of a rail corridor cannot be overstated

Dear editor,

Re: Passenger rail service consideration continues

Despite the best efforts of local politicians, special interest groups and a chronically disinterested provincial government, the E & N railroad remains stubbornly and valiantly alive, due primarily to the efforts of the beleaguered Island Corridor Foundation and a couple of visionary partners.

I recently sat down for a meeting with local MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard to discuss the issue. I continue to be appalled that this vital asset continues to languish in governmental neglect year after year while private parties struggle to keep it alive. Ms. Leonard would only say that government was “looking at it”. Well, that isn’t good enough.

The efficiency and economic value of a rail corridor cannot be overstated.

To let this corridor slip through our grasp and be broken up, never to be revived, would be not only economically foolish, but a dereliction of civic duty.

The existing railroad should not only be brought back into service, it should be double-tracked and electrified. And plans to extend it all the way to Port Hardy should be initiated. The existing highway can provide the basis for extending the right of way and eventually it might be possible to tie into the logging rail networks up-island to provide additional freight options.

The economy of Vancouver Island is going to expand tremendously in the coming decades. But transportation options are limited due to topography and the vast tracts of land under private corporate ownership. The province’s ace in the hole is the universal land covenant that we all sign to live here giving the E & N the right to establish rights of way. If the existing right of way is lost, it will never be re-established. This cannot be allowed to happen. The economic and environmental advantages that would come from an electrified, double-tracked railway the length of Vancouver Island are too important to ignore. The east coast of Australia, from Sydney north to Brisbane, daily carrying passengers and freight, are a good model. People and goods are moved efficiently, and thousands of people are not driving cars to get to work every day.

If British Columbians can build $600 million highways for the Whistler ski resort, then surely, we can spend a fraction of that to keep our irreplaceable Vancouver Island railroad.

Scott Goodman

Courtenay

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