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Saving Vancouver Island Railway

unimaginative2

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I think the E&N has tremendous potential, and should receive some serious investment. To give you an idea of the terrible state it's in, a family friend who lives on the island north of Nanaimo would love to be able to take the train into Victoria, but she has a bad back and the jostling from the dilapidated track is so severe that she has trouble walking afterwards.

The Malahat is a terribly crowded and dangerous stretch of highway that would be very difficult and environmentally damaging to expand. Good rail service up to Nanaimo and beyond could eliminate the need for it. Closer in to Victoria, it could also be used as a commuter service.




Work to save E&N Railway, province urged

BRENNAN CLARKE

Special to The Globe and Mail

March 7, 2008

VICTORIA -- A strong vote of confidence from the B.C. government is all that is needed to unlock millions of dollars in federal funding for Vancouver Island's troubled E&N Railway, Island Corridor Foundation co-chair Jack Peake said yesterday.

"From my perspective, Ottawa is on side. Now all we need is for Victoria to recognize that this is a good project," said Mr. Peake, head of the non-profit agency that owns the historical rail line, formerly called the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway.

"It's not a case of B.C. jumping on the bandwagon and taking this to the feds. They're already on board."

Mr. Peake's group has pegged the cost of bringing the little-used railway up to North American standards at more than $100-million.

During a fundraising mission to Ottawa in February, Conservative MPs praised the ICF's plans.

They urged Mr. Peake to apply to Building Canada, a federal fund that has paid for similar railway upgrades in Ontario and Quebec.

B.C. is slated to receive $2.7-billion from Building Canada over the next seven years. But all eligible projects require matching provincial dollars, and the minister responsible, Transport Minister Kevin Falcon, is not convinced rail transit on Vancouver Island makes economic sense.

"The full business case would have to be investigated in detail before we would make any funding requests," he said. "It would require the same due diligence as any other project."

The ICF recently delivered an updated proposal to the minister's office, but Mr. Falcon said he had not had a chance to look at it.

Mr. Peake stressed that the $100-million price tag includes a $16-million investment in repairs and rail cars for a proposed commuter service from downtown Victoria west to Langford that is expected to generate more than of $1-million a year.

A major upgrade would also allow the E&N's operator, Southern Railway of Vancouver Island, to start turning a profit on its freight business.

Southern Railway, which is currently using the tracks free of charge, would then begin forwarding lease payments to the ICF that could be used for further upgrades, he said.

Southern Railway president Frank Butzelaar said yesterday the E&N will cease to exist without investment in its aging infrastructure. "Without this money, without this investment, there is no future for the railway. Period."

Since taking over as the E&N's operator two years ago, Southern Railway has been able to increase freight traffic by 30 per cent, despite being unable to use the potentially lucrative section of track between Parksville and the logging community of Port Alberni, Mr. Butzelaar said.

The company's long-term plans include an $11-million freight terminal on Annacis Island, off Delta, that would provide an efficient, direct link between Southern Railway's Lower Mainland holdings and its terminal in Nanaimo.

Mr. Butzelaar said the company sees great growth potential in shipping lumber from Vancouver Island mills to the Lower Mainland, and added that a cheap rail link to markets in the United States could help rejuvenate the island's struggling forestry industry.

While he is hoping for $100-million in total, Mr. Peake pointed out that funding could be disbursed over a period of years, since the upgrades would be carried out in phases, starting with the proposed commuter route through Greater Victoria.
 

ShonTron

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Have you rode the line?

I had a chance to ride the whole line in 2005, and even then, the tracks were in rough shape - sometimes grass obscured the rails, and it felt like the whole time the wheels were grinding the rusty rails. It was rough, but not uncomfortably so. It's a beautiful trip, with most towns having a historic station still standing, forests, canyons, and a useful alignment for limited commuter service as well as Southern Island intercity service.

It is kind of ironic that the Harper government is more friendly to rail than Liberals, but in this case we're talking BC "Liberals", which are more Socred than Liberal.
 

adma

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It is kind of ironic that the Harper government is more friendly to rail than Liberals, but in this case we're talking BC "Liberals", which are more Socred than Liberal.

Well, sorta--more like a catchall for everything that's viably "non-NDP". (Carole Taylor, for example, would definitely qualify in the Chretien/Martinite end of BC Liberalism.)
 

Long Island Mike

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Saving the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway in B.C.-

Everyone: I have in my timetable collection a E&N TT from November 17,1975
a card issued by CP showing the Budd Car service operating between Victoria and Parksville(94 miles or 152 km) showing one round trip leaving Victoria at
8:15am and arriving at Parksville at 11:20am-leaving to return at 2:00pm to arrive back at Victoria at 5:00pm. This same TT shows ferries operating between Nanaimo and Vancouver-3 trips each way per day.

Later under VIA I noticed in a Summer 1981 TT I have service had been extended to Courtenay(139 miles or 224 km) with a turnaround time there of just one-half hour on a similar schedule. I have seen pics of this line and I noticed the foliated right-of-way but I did not know about the line's bad track. I feel that if the BC government is smart they will save and improve this rail service-hopefully it will not suffer the same fate as Newfoundland-as most know lost most if not all of its rail service. LI MIKE
 

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