Very good case for upgrading Island Rail Corridor
Re: “No business case for Island railway”, (Citizen, Nov. 26).
In response to Marja Blase’s letter, I would like address a number of points made. Primarily the letter attempts to question the validity of the survey put out by the Island Corridor Foundation. I would appreciate an opportunity to speak to some of the comments.
Firstly, our population density is enough to warrant rail services on the corridor, particularly in the Western Communities. The 80 per cent response came from well over 3,000 participants which clearly translates into a large percentage of the Island population. Our current population is almost 900,000 and will certainly be 1 million in a very short time. On top of that a great deal of the population lives in close proximity to the corridor. The development of the corridor would be four pronged. A form of commuter service in the south end, intercity passenger services on the entire corridor, freight services to current and past customers and finally a number of tourist related trains that will be developed as we exit the pandemic. The railway offers a perfect opportunity to use infrastructure funds from both the federal government, and the province to aid economic recovery.
With you not seeing the survey, I feel it is unfair to throw presumptive criticisms at it without understanding the nature of the survey. It had all the questions you referred to and was a clear stamp of approval for the rail project to move forward.
One of the interesting points you made, was to use the $729 million figure which would cover turning the corridor into a gold plated operation with fancy stations and everything one might imagine in a major operation. What is considered practical here is the lower amount of $304 million which would give the Island a very good, efficient operation providing all the services needed and wanted. As time goes on, and the demands increase, additional funds can be invested.
One of the other errors made by many folks is the reference to tearing up the rails and making the corridor into some kind of trail or roadway. Not possible for a number of reasons. If the rails etc. were removed, the corridor would disappear as a contiguous corridor and would not be viable for any other use. In addition there are bike and walking trails along a great many kilometres of the corridor already. The cost to convert, if it could be done, would exceed the $304 million when you factor in that the McKenzie intersection final bill will be $100 million and the recently completed work on the Malahat also came in near $100 million. Add a $100 million and the entire rail line can be back in use very quickly.
Finally there is a business case for the investment in the rail corridor for three very important reasons. Economic, environment and social. After 14 years of involvement in this project I can tell that right now is no better time than to make the investment and move forward on a very, very worthwhile project.
Lastly I should point out that on the Lower Mainland the province committed to spending $2.8 billion on a 5 km ALR extension along Broadway. The funds committed to do 1 km would exceed what is needed to upgrade the entire Vancouver Island Rail Corridor.
Thanks for listening.