It is so sad that our communities have become polarized over the passenger rail debate. Rail advocates want a safe, convenient, affordable and environmentally-sustainable transportation option.
Trail advocates want to convert the rail right-of-way into a wonderful amenity for recreation and tourism. The frustrating thing is that a solution exists that could satisfy both camps, but none of our civic leaders is talking about it.
It’s widely believed that passenger rail is a low-pollution transport system, but the facts are otherwise. The diesel rail cars used on Vancouver Island burn much more fuel per passenger/km than a bus, while huge volumes of wood must be logged to replace rotting rail ties, and the right of way must be sprayed every year with toxic herbicide to suppress weeds. On top of all that, deadly collisions between trains and cars or pedestrians are a tragic certainty.
For less than half the estimated $21 million cost of restoring the rails to a minimal level of safety, we could buy a fleet of comfortable, low-emission buses that would provide several trips a day from Campbell River to Victoria and back — faster, safer and much cleaner than the train.
The balance of the funds could go a long way to converting the railway grade to a hiking and biking trail. It’s a win-win solution. Instead of squabbling over the ICF leadership, local governments should pull together and create a well-planned proposal to use the up-coming federal infrastructure funding for this purpose.
Doug HopwoodQualicum Beach