EDITORIAL - About a Plan B



Ah, the romance of the rail. A civilized, leisurely way to travel worry-free, up and down the Island, through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

When it comes to whether the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) actually makes rail service happen once again on our Island, that romantic notion and $2.50 will get you a cup of coffee.

Despite massive cuts to VIA Rail’s federal-government subsidies, ICF general manager Graham Bruce told The NEWS this week he remains “fairly confident” service above and beyond what it used to be — which means including the Parksville Qualicum Beach region — is still going to happen.

Bruce’s confidence, and $2.50, will get you . . . well, you get the picture.

The rail project has been a topic of conversation at many local government meetings, and Qualicum Beach Coun. Dave Willie, the town’s representative on the Regional District of Nanaimo’s board of directors, has voiced his doubts, displeasure and skepticism at almost every council meeting.

What Willie and others like Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek and Coun. Bill Luchtmeijer have been saying of late bears notice. These community leaders are prudently asking if there’s a Plan B for the millions in funding already promised the ICF.

If the ICF and VIA Rail can’t pull this off, what happens to that money? Is there a way to secure that funding for other kinds of improvements to the rail corridor if the trains don’t actually run? How about a linear park? These are the questions being asked by these municipal politicians and others.

As Willie pointed out in an interview yesterday, Bruce’s group is not called the Island Rail Foundation. It’s about the corridor itself, and if it’s not going to be used for rail service, then what?

It’s true the rest of the world’s developed nations are putting more and more money into rail service, most of it high-tech and high-speed. Vancouver Island does not have the population to support that kind of service on its corridor, never mind the billions of dollars that would be required to upgrade the rails and purchase the hardware.

We urge the directors of all five regional districts who are supporting this latest rail proposal to do the prudent thing and develop a plan to retain the money promised from senior governments for this project, trains or no trains.

— Editorial by John Harding






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