We must take the long view with rail

We must take the long view with rail

No one is suggesting that the number of people on Vancouver Island is about to decrease soon

We must take the long view with rail

The separate needs of the commuter belt and us in the interurban territory for the revival of the E&N Railway appears to be coming nicely into focus. As soon as Langford can use it to get access to the major employment centres of the Victoria area, the easier it will be for Cowichan residents, who need access to the same places, to get there.

No one is suggesting that the number of people on Vancouver Island is about to decrease soon and the choked condition of local highways suggest that we have a disproportionate number of them jamming past us. Building infrastructure requires that the constructors take a long view and in the railway world, this means that a project that meets its operating costs from revenues by the end of its first 10 years of operation is well run. Its capital costs probably need to be amortized over, perhaps, 75 to 100 years.

The idea that it will be profitable in a conventional business sense bears little merit, but where its value is most noticeable is the efficiency with which it can move freight and people between existing locations such as downtown, shopping centres, schools and universities, the next town and, if we so decide, a hospital. Capacity can be added to a train by the expedient of adding a car and it uses up far less ground than a highway. Experience has shown that increased population density can be managed by focusing on the land adjacent to stations rather than further urban sprawl.

The technology available for modern railways provides for a more effective service than was the case even a decade ago. Furthermore, it differs from its highway counterpart in that, properly planned, it does not take a problem and move it six kilometres down the road, where it becomes worse.

We have rails available now and the most effective thing we can do is put them to use, even if it is only, at first, a rail bus from the Duncan market to Crofton to coincide with the arrival of the ferry. Passengers could walk through the town, get the rail vehicle, come into the market, buy something, get lunch or a coffee and do something similar on the way back. It is not much, but someone is making some money and someone else is getting a service; large industries had much smaller starts.

John Appleby