Do you remember the uproar a few years back when the rail service was suspended? The protests? The riots? The letters in the paper? Me either. The truth is, it was barely missed. Only when the mirage of a service being reinstated appeared on the horizon did some elements of the public voice support.
The reality is that our money continues to be thrown at the pursuit of an impractical rail line, impeded by deteriorating infrastructure and interrupted by hundreds of driveways and road crossings.
No official recognition has been made of alternative and more beneficial uses of the corridor. Many of those forcing a rail agenda have openly stated that, if the public knew the reality of the railway will mean a freight line, they would no longer support it. Yet those representatives have not made this clear to the public they represent.
At no time has a feasibility study been carried out. The studies that have been done understated costs and failed to adequately recognize alternative uses. Those in favour of rail are not supporting a passenger service, but log trains and coal trucks rolling through our towns. Even if successful, a rail line would rob us of quality of life as Vancouver Island’s East side would fall victim to the unwanted industries required to fill the freight cars needed to recoup the $200 million cost of the rail repairs.
If public transport is identified as a priority, a more flexible community bus service could run when and where required, and link to an improved express service the length of the island.
The rail corridor should be used as a wheelchair friendly, paved cycling and walking route that will allow safe and efficient transport for tens of thousands who live along its route. It would tie in with existing ferry and air routes to bring tourists to our businesses cheaply and easily. It would allow easy access to the outdoors for people of all ages and could form the backbone of each municipality’s cycling and walking strategies.
Vancouver Island is still viewed worldwide as a beautiful destination. Canada is viewed as a healthy, outdoor oriented country. Let’s build on the positives we have at our disposal and use this opportunity to preserve the natural beauty we enjoy, promote sustainable tourism and provide a benefit for every individual and community between Courtenay and Victoria.
Michael AddiscottQualicum Beach