Trails, not rails are the answer

Re: ‘B.C. Gov’t to fund assessment of E&N rail line’ (PQB News, Jan. 6)

The Jan. 10 letter by resident Tim Benesh echoes my sentiment favouring trails over rails in the E&N line.

News stories about the rail repairs to the Churchill, Man., rail line should give Vancouver Island residents cause for concern.

In that case, it was initially claimed repairs to a small segment of the 280-kilometre rail line would cost $43 million but, in the recent sale announcement, was said to be $74 million.

Compare that amount to the $15 million previously claimed by the ICF for bringing the 220-kilometre Victoria-to-Courtenay line into service, and the math just doesn’t add up.

The announced E&N assessment, if conducted by a responsible engineering consultant, would most likely decline to offer any assurances of safety and reliability of roadbed, trestle and bridge assets, without major investment far exceeding those on flatland Manitoba. I personally doubt that another federal $74 million would be adequate to make the E&N rail line operable.

Alternately, trails that were portions of former railways elsewhere in Canada, are used for recreation and tourism and have spawned businesses along the route, including bike rentals, B&Bs, and coffee shops.

The trail goes through the centre of several towns, providing a range of local services to trail travellers.

An ICF trail through Qualicum Beach would provide exactly this range of services for hikers and bikers. It would also be so much safer that bicycle travel along the old Island Highway.

The foolishness about reviving rail service from Victoria to Courtenay should end. Put this corridor to some uses that would benefit local communities.

Steve Smith

Qualicum Beach

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