For over 125 years rail travel has occurred on Vancouver Island. From the heyday of rail during the coal mining years of Robert Dunsmuir to the budd car travels of recent decades Vancouver Island has changed. Is it time for new thinking?
Recent news on removal of the Dayliner Cars
Many discussions have occurred on creating new formats of rail travel on the south island. Question should be, is there a benefit over bus travel on the same routes? In many cases the rail travel would likely be slower than the highway counterparts thus reducing the argument for rail. More information can be found on the Island Corridor Foundation’s website.
The corridor was built in the days of steam trains and would not be comfortable for high speed commuter traffic such as the West Coast Express. The passenger capacity on the bud cars is not much different than modern double length commuter buses.
Others will argue the historic joy of rail travel, but the lines are overgrown, the views have been lost and it’s time to move forward.
Cost estimates for repair and replacement of the required rail parts would exceed 15 million dollars. This would only repair existing, and not provide for new or increased capacity or realignment for commuter train travel.
Rail and other components of rail lines have a reasonable value on the used or even scrap market.
Instead of spending 15 million to repair, let’s move forward to development of a rails to trails corridor like nothing seen before.
Removal and sale of existing track materials, regrading of the line with light crush materials and signage / pedestrian crossings would be relatively cost neutral.
Existing buildings and parking infrastructure would provide on and off points for cycle tourism and local recreation, and an ongoing maintenance contract for grading and foliage control would be passed on to local service clubs or even included in the recovery costs.
Cycle rail trail routes would provide additional sources a of travel revenue, offer opportunities for local communities to become involved in the project and could be extended to all former sites to provide the most extensive network of recreation trails in North America.
A review of existing networks of rail trail would easily show with minimal costs, tourism and recreation opportunities would be extensive and benefit a broader range of businesses and services on Vancouver Island. Linking with existing structures of the Cowichan Valley Rail Trail and the recently restored Kinsol Trestle, the opportunities for a prosperous future is great.
Examples of Rail Trails
- La route verte – 4,000 km’s of pathways and shared roads designated for cycling.
- I-90 corridor – Route of the Hiawatha Trail of the Coeur D’Alenes (pdf)
- Kettle Valley Railway
- Spirit of 2010 Trails – Includes Cowichan Valley Rail Trail
It’s a sad day indeed to lose the sound of trains on Vancouver island, but maybe a new opportunity will show itself through Rails to Trails.