August 24, 2018
Claire Trevena, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure,
I recently took these photographs behind Springwood Elementary School in Parksville. It is the Island rail system. It is very disheartening to see the E&N Rail corridor deteriorate to this level.
Regrettably, the rail corridor lies unattended. Every 3rd/4th rail sleeper is rotten. It is obvious the rail corridor can not be used again for trains. It is not cost effective or sustainable.
I challenge the NDP government to take a proactive approach in supporting a hiking/cycling trail from Courtenay to Victoria. Federal, provincial, regional and municipal government involvement is the only way this will happen. This is a world class opportunity that not only benefits the health of our residents but also tourism. The Kettle Valley Trails is a good example and attests to this fact. I do not understand why this issue continues to linger while a valuable resource lies idle.
I would like to hear your position on this matter and why there appears to be little political support for a trail system.
Bill Wrathall, Parksville
November 10, 2017
(Letter to MLA Leonard Eugene Krog, Nanaimo)
I appreciate your response to our letter ( Friends of Rails to Trail VI ) and that Ministry staff will be considering our request. I wish to appeal to you and your staff with additional information before a study of rail viability on Vancouver island is too advanced.
As you may know, existing studies by your Ministry (IBI study, 2004) indicated that successful rail service using the E+N Right of Way would require a public subsidy substantially higher than any other railway in North America. In addition it could only be successful if population densities along the corridor were very much higher and if large investments in infrastructure (railbed, track , rolling stock etc.) to allow higher speeds were committed. The IBI study also emphasized the importance of freight for successful rail on the Island; so clearly, the ‘business’ decision to shutdown the WFP last week to provide more flexibility by using trucks, suggests that rail no longer meets the complex requirements of modern freight transportation on the island.
It is also known that the defined railbed geometry does not meet modern standards of railway construction in terms of sightlines. It is known that the original railbed geometry did not even meet the standards of that time never mind the standards of today. There is also the problem of the number of road crossings (240) many of which did not exist at the time construction of the railway. Because of these seriously limiting conditions it is difficult to imagine that rail service based on the existing Right of Way will ever be successful in terms of adequate performance and justifiable cost.
What we have seen in the past are studies which have tried unsuccessfully to demonstrate the viability of rail service on the island. Private operators have tried unsuccessfully in the early 2000s. In the 1980s the line was declared uneconomic by CP; the National Transportation Commission agreed and in 1994 the Supreme court decided that the Federal Government had no constitutional responsibility to subsidize or provide rail service on the island. Most people, when they understand the facts of the unrealistic subsidies and capital costs of present day use as a rail corridor and see the viability and success of trails in other areas support its use as a long distance trail.
I do not question the possibility of rail as a solution to future transportation requirements when populations are higher but I believe the conditions are right now for the use of the Island corridor, the only one with both continuity and easy grades, as a multi use trail which can combine local alternative transportation, as is already happening in Victoria and Nanaimo, and as a tourist and recreational attraction without parallel. There are a growing number of such trails in Canada and the USA . It is well recognised that they deliver social, health, economic , and employment benefits well in excess of the modest investments required; and I would add important cultural benefits for all if the FN are involved. A Canadian example of economic benefits is the Welland Canal Parkway, a 45 Km Greenway in Ontario, which, for an annual investment of $2.5 million is expected to generate $200 million in economic impact alone within 15 years.
I strongly support the undertaking of an independent study that is rail or trail neutral and that will consider the uniqueness of this property and recommend the highest and best use for the Right of Way which is consistent with public interest and benefit. It is my hope that such a study would provide an evidenced based conclusion which will underpin requests for resources to develop its full potential.
August 28, 2017
Dear Ms Stillwell,
We were pleased with the recent opportunity to discuss the efforts and aspirations of Friends of Rails to Trails, Vancouver Island, for the E&N Corridor. We were encouraged by your knowledge of the issues and the support you expressed for our objectives.
As discussed, FORT-VI sees the current legal challenges of affected First Nations as providing a fortuitous opportunity to review all options for future use of the corridor, not just the limited range of alternatives on which the ICF has based its planning, unsuccessfully, for the past 10 years. For our part, we are pleased with the considerable public support we have received, at both individual and municipal levels, in our call for an alternative approach to the corridor – independent of rail and dedicated as a continuous, near level, all-purpose, non-motorized recreational through trail, extending from Courtenay and to Port Alberni to the Galloping Goose into Victoria.
As you know, this is an option that the ICF, as presently constituted, is not prepared to evaluate but which, as proven by example throughout the world, has demonstrated community and commercial success for residents and tourists alike. This alternative deserves full consideration.
The newly elected government of British Columbia has already demonstrated its determination that major public decisions are soundly based on fact. In that spirit, we hope that you will assist us and your represented constituents by seeing that the current hiatus in action on the corridor is used to require a proper, fact-based evaluation of all options for its use and better, more transparent and accountable management of this public asset for the benefit of all Island residents.
Very truly yours,
Les Andersen and Wilfrid Worland
Friends of Rails to Trails, Vancouver Island
Letter sent by FORT-VI to the Premier and 13 NDP and Green Vancouver Island MLAs:
August 23, 2017
Dear Premier Horgan,
Plans for renewal of train service on the E&N corridor appear to be on hold for a year or more while the challenge to ownership of portions passing through certain First Nations lands is before courts. This provides an ideal opportunity to review all options for future use of the corridor, not just the limited range of alternatives on which the ICF has unsuccessfully based its planning for the past 10 years.
Since April of this year, Friends of Rails to Trails, Vancouver Island, has received the support of over 2300 Island residents calling for, not a costly patchwork of “rails with trails” as advocated by the ICF, but removal of the rails entirely. We feel that, with or without trails, rail will have no viable future on the island for many decades to come and that, until such time as a better option is feasible, the rail bed should be re-purposed as a continuous, near level, all-purpose, non-motorized recreational through trail — extending from Courtenay and Pt. Alberni to the Galloping Goose, essentially into Victoria.
This is an option that the ICF, as presently constituted, is not prepared to evaluate but which, as proven by example throughout the world, has demonstrated community and commercial success for residents and tourists alike. This deserves full consideration.
The new government of British Columbia is committed to avoiding biased political decisions and has already demonstrated wisdom in taking such steps in the re-evaluation of other public undertakings. It recognizes that priorities must be sorted and decisions made on fact, facts which include all options.
In that spirit, we call upon you, as an elected Vancouver Island representative, to take the necessary steps on this important Vancouver Island issue. We urge you to take the opportunity now available on account of the hiatus in ICF action to ensure that a proper, fact-based study of the best use of the E&N corridor is made for the benefit of all Island residents.
Sherry Durnford, Ladysmith
Les Anderson, Parksville
Wilfrid Worland, Qualicum Beach
Denise Savoie, Comox
Friends of Rails to Trails, Vancouver Island
July 26, 2017
Dear Mayor Jangula and Councilors
Thank you for the work you do in our community, we are especially appreciative of the collaborative efforts in working with the Regional District.
Today we are writing to request your support in the efforts of many Comox Valley residents to convert the unused and largely abandoned railway corridor from rail to trail. When we purchased our home in 2008, it was possible to travel to Victoria by rail. We looked forward to taking this trip, perhaps for the reason that rail travel reminds us of simpler and unhurried lives. However, like many others, we never did. The cost, inconvenient schedule, and slow travel made it unattractive, and it remained a fantasy.
It has now been six years since rail service was discontinued, and while the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) is enthusiastic about the re-establishment of rail service, it is questionable that this will ever happen. The tracks continue to deteriorate as costs to upgrade continue to increase. Support appears to be dwindling with the Regional District of Nanaimo withdrawing its financial support and the Snaw-Naw-As First Nations filing a civil claim in the BC Supreme Court against the ICF and the Attorney General. We understand that the local Rotary group has withdrawn its support for funding of the renovation to the Courtenay train station.
As you know, there is a very strong cycling community in the Comox Valley, a group which actively supports local businesses. We are avid cyclists and our cycling groups always seek out trails to ride as an alternative to our busy roads and highways. The conversion to a multi use trail is a low cost alternative that will boost the economies of the Comox Valley and Vancouver Island with tourism dollars, while providing healthy and safe recreational opportunities for Comox Valley residents.
We look forward to your furthering this initiative which has widespread, and growing, community support.
Robyn Rushford and Keith Wallace
10 July, 2017
Letter sent to Chief Councillor Michael Recalma
Dear Councillor Recalma,
Friends of Rails to Trails, Vancouver Island, (FORT-VI) is an unincorporated community group seeking removal of the E&N rails and re-purposing the rail bed as a non-motorized recreational trail, from Victoria to Courtenay, including the Port Alberni spur. Since April, 2017, we have already received endorsement from the City of Nanaimo, the Village of Cumberland and the Regional District of Nanaimo, requesting that the Island Corridor Foundation support our proposal and establish an initial trail from Parksville to Courtenay. The trail would be essentially level, replacing the rails and using existing bridges, trestles and earthworks.
FORT-VI feels there is no future for Island rail service, especially along this section of the corridor. We consider a trail to be an ideal way of utilizing the corridor in the interest of public health, recreation and tourism, as well as linking the many communities along its length far better and at considerably more locations and lower cost than ever provided by rail. We also anticipate commercial and cultural opportunity for the communities involved.
FORT-VI would value your input, participation and support and would welcome an opportunity to discuss this with your community. The E&N has a controversial background but now may be the time to convert the corridor to more generally constructive purpose linking the Island’s history and future for the betterment of all its communities and residents.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Denise Savoie, Comox
Les Andersen, Parksville
Sherry Durnford, Ladysmith
Jodi Appleton, Victoria
Email copied to:
Ronna-Rae Leonard, MLA, Comox
Scott Fraser, MLA Alberni–Pacific Rim
John Horgan, Premier-designate
Andrew Weaver, MLA, Oak Bay-Gordon Head
Gord Johns, MPP, Courtenay-Alberni