Some readers question why the E&N rail corridor should be converted to a recreational trail, while the ICF already has a plan to build trails alongside the existing rail line.
The RDN has identified 38 separate sections involved in building this type of trail from Parksville to Cook Creek en route to Courtenay. Of the 38, 11 sections have been identified as “not possible,” either on account of excessive water conditions, slope beside the rail or simply being bridges or trestles. The remaining 27 isolated, “doable” sections are projected to cost, on average, roughly $340 per metre. By comparison, the continuous “trail in place of rail” between Kelowna and Vernon is fully budgeted at $160 per metre including fees and a contingency of 40 per cent, neither of which were included in RDN estimates. That represents one-third the cost for a full trail built on the rail bed.
The side trail issue is directly related to the feasibility of rail itself. Why build a costly, non-continuous trail alongside a defunct rail? The ICF has never produced a business plan for re-introducing rail for the simple fact that the population of the Island is approximately 5 per cent or less that of dense urban areas and European countries frequently put forth (Holland, for instance) to demonstrate wise and efficient rail transport. Fortunately, we do have good transportation alternatives where our train once ran.
FORT-VI is the voice of those who feel now is time to stop talking about rail service on the Island and to use the corridor for better, more publicly accessible and productive purposes. The corridor is not going away; it will always be there to meet the need of future generations.
Friends of Rails to Trails, Vancouver Island (FORT-VI)