Ditch the E&N

There are better ways to get around on Vancouver Island

Interested parties are going for 15 million dollars to patch-up the old railway.  I really hope that the governments that hand out such largesse on behalf of the citizens have the good sense to call a halt to this totally impractical railway business. 

Yes, if we had three or four million potential passengers living on the east coast of the Island, it would make economic sense to have a rail system that was co-ordinated with bus schedules in the cities. The problem is that we do not have that many living along the rail corridor — and thank goodness for that.

What the proponents of a patched-up railway do not accept or understand is that the railway has been economically doomed since the depression of the 1930s, when the E&N could not pay the taxes on their extensive land grants.  Lands that were supposed to subsidize the building and operation of the rail line were scooped-up by the forest companies at fire-sale prices and forever separated from providing income to the railway. Since then the railway has not been able to support itself. Not for want of trying. And subsidies. And watching good money follow bad for almost 80 years.

Now they are looking for a paltry $15 million but really need 100 million to do the job right. Even then there is not the population base to support the rail line. 

The operation would always be in the red, asking for more money as in the present and past.  

Short haul freight by rail is even more uneconomic than passenger service. Short-haul by truck is far more efficient and substantially cheaper.  Especially when the capital costs are factored in.  

A truck can drive from Victoria to Parksville, make maybe 10 to 20 stops at the back door of recipient businesses on the way, while goods shipped by train are just being unloaded for delivery. By what? Yes, a truck.  

William Radelet



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