In your May 20 issue, ICF executive director Larry Stevenson questions statements made by FORT-VI regarding the recently released government report on the condition of the rail corridor (Debates resume about passenger rail service). His remarks demand a response.
Mr. Stevenson is very familiar with the report and certainly knows it clearly shows in its initial phase a scheduled departure time of 3:16 a.m. from Courtenay, five-hour, 16-minute travel time to Victoria, returning at 10:12 p.m. His reference to shorter travel times would occur only if the rail was upgraded to a phase 2 or 3 scenario, at even higher cost. The report recommends doing so only when ridership warrants it. In fact, the report hints that a train, if one ever returned, could potentially extend only to Nanaimo or Parksville.
The ridership forecast estimates 10-20 people a day boarding from Courtenay, hardly enough to justify 100s of millions of dollars of taxpayer money.
His reference to the many trails the ICF has ‘developed’ is also disingenuous. Most if not all existing trails on the corridor have been constructed by local governments or service groups.
His hope that trails will “continue up and down the entire Island” is misleading. He knows very well that dozens of places along the corridor – bridges, embankments, rock faces, etc. – cannot accommodate both train and trail. Mr. Stevenson has emphatically stated in public that, where a choice must be made between train and trail, there will be no trail.
The report plainly shows the enormous costs required to reinstate train service make no sense. Besides exorbitant reconstruction costs, substantial ongoing operating subsidies would be required to keep it running, a waste of public money.
Unused rail corridors throughout North America are being converted to trails with demonstrated economic benefits. The E&N corridor needs to be open again with a new and better use.