Rail investment is a proposal that should be taken seriously, says letter writer. (NEWS BULLETIN file)

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Trains would transform Island

A complete rail transportation solution for Vancouver Island would be of immeasurable value

To the editor,

Re: Rail hopes get revisited, Editorial, Nov. 16.

The ongoing efforts of the Island Corridor Foundation are admirable. But resurrecting a quaint and antiquated rail car service with tourist appeal is of little value as part of the long-term solution to commuter and cross community travel needs. A complete rail transportation solution for Vancouver Island may cost from $250-400 million, but the economic and community development benefits would be immeasurable.

A system of about 20 station stops on a rail link from Campbell River to Victoria, co-ordinated with a spur line from Port Alberni to Parksville, connecting with two major LRT lines one from the Westshore to downtown Victoria and the other linking the ferry terminal at Swartz Bay and Victoria International Airport, would impact tourism.

Some will argue that such a concept is a pipe dream. Yet national and global experience says otherwise. I was fortunate, in the late ’60s, to serve on one of the working groups that recommended to Ontario Premier Bill Davis, the concept of using underutilized CN lines to re-establish rail commuter passenger service between Pickering and Oakville. At the time, the concept was decried by political and transportation experts as unworkable and too expensive. Yet with courage the system was implemented in 1969. Imagine the impact on the GTA if the 400,000 plus who travel on the current GO Transit were suddenly added back in their cars.

Similar resistance greeted the efforts to modernize and introduce technologically rail transport in Europe. But, even in the U.K. it is now recognized that an effective commuter rail/rapid transport system is the backbone of 21st century, environmentally sustainable transportation and infrastructure.

This is a project that would attract highly positive domestic and international attention, create employment and more importantly, as it allows a total rethinking of transit, business and government locational decisions, secure the economic future of the whole Island.

If we can, as we should, look positively at the concept of a high-speed rail link between Seattle and Vancouver, there is no excuse for not taking this proposal seriously.

Les Bowd, Lake Cowichan

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