The following are letters written by FORT-VI members and supporters.
Writing letters and emails to the Minister of Transportation, the Premier, your local MLA, your local Regional District, your municipal councilors and your local newspapers will all help us show that there is significant community support for a trail on the E&N Corridor.
Looking for ideas for writing your own letter? Check out our Fact Sheet for some facts that support the trail concept and read the letters written below for ideas.
If you write a letter, be sure to let us know – you can copy us at email@example.com. Then let your friends know and encourage them to write a letter too!
1 March 2019
Hon. John Horgan
West Annex Parliament Buildings
Victoria BC V8V 1X4
Dear Premier Horgan:
Re: Island Corridor Foundation/E & N Railway
As I am certain you are aware, the E & N Railway was been closed to rail traffic since 2010 for safety reasons. While in the past 8 years, there has been much talk of resurrecting the rail passenger service, nothing has happened to bring us any closer to renewed rail service on Vancouver Island. I am writing to you to urge your government to abandon any pursuit of a new rail service and instead convert the Island Corridor to its best possible public use – a multi-use trail.
Admittedly, I write this as an avid cyclist. Indeed the one time that you and I have met we were both on bicycles (and you were then the Langford MLA, not the premier). It was on the Galloping Goose, near the Luxton Rodeo Grounds. I was stopped by the side of the trail and you very kindly stopped to make sure I was alright. I was actually quite close to my mother-in-law’s place who used to live just across the street from where your office now is on Jacklin Road.
I am sure you don’t remember any of this but we had a brief chat about the E & N and you were quite excited about the possibility of it coming back. I wasn’t and still am not for much the same reasons, namely that the cost to refurbish the lines would be astronomical and the ridership, at least from Duncan north, would still be minimal.
A bike trail on the old E & N line would be a tourist magnet for anyone interested biking. I have ridden many rails-to-trails routes myself including:
Trans- Canada Trail in PEI which is entirely a disused railbed and is 250 km long
Centennial Trail from Spokane to Coeur d’Alene
Great Allegheny Passage to Washington DC
Olympic Discovery Trail – out of Port Angeles
Snohomish County Centennial Trail from Snohomish to Arlington
I have also bike-toured in Central and South America, Asia, and Europe and feel that a bike ride from Courtenay to Duncan could rival any of the rides I have done. It would be great to ride all the way to Victoria but I think that portion of the line, at least from the western communities to downtown might still be of some use as a rail line to lessen commuter motor vehicle traffic.
So the opportunity is there, the opportunity to create a world class multi-purpose trail. And it can be done by trading in a tired, rusty old set of railway tracks that nobody uses or likely ever will use again. There is an organization in place , F.O.R.T. Vancouver Island (Friends of Rails to Trails) who can get the information out to many people like myself who would be only too glad to volunteer to help build a trail.
Please give it some thought, Mr. Premier, and perhaps we will meet again while on our bikes, but this time on the old E & N line. If we do I’ll buy you a beer.
February 6th, 2019
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure
Province of British Columbia
Dear Minister Trevena,
Thank you for the time you spent with us in our meeting on December 6th and your clarification that no decisions had been made on the future of the E+N corridor. Since that time we note that your meeting with Vancouver Island Regions and First Nations which you informed us of has taken place.
We understand from media reports that an assessment of transportation infrastructure and services on Southern Vancouver Island was to be done and that this would include an assessment of the material condition of the E+N corridor and rail infrastructure. We noted during a CBC interview with MLA Mitzi Dean that options for the use of the E+N corridor would be considered when this work was complete.
MLA Dean said “This assessment will inform the government’s decision as to future uses of the corridor.” It was not clear, however, what range of options might be considered. MLA Dean more than once mentioned the idea that the costs and benefits of different options would be considered in the decisions. We would like to be assured that our proposed option of a multi-use trail receive a fair evaluation along with whatever other options are under consideration.
The “Galloping Goose” and E+N trails are already providing substantial transportation services in the Victoria region. The Galloping Goose rail-trail carried 2,500 cyclists a day after the opening of the new Johnson Street Bridge (Times Colonist, April 28th 2018). The most recent Capital region transportation survey found that between 2006 – 2017 trips by bicycle increased by 100% and by walking 33%. During the same period trips by car dropped by just under 8% (Times Colonist, June 26th, 2018). Investment in multi-use trails has contributed to this mode share shift. This is why we want a multi-use trail option considered for the E+N right of way.
Alastair Craighead, Board Chair, FORT-VI
cc Premier John Horgan
February 3, 2019
Hello Mr. Routley,
My wife and I retired in the Yellowpoint area and enjoy the wonderful peace and tranquility of Island living. Having lived in the hustle and bustle of big cities, the chance to get back to nature is amongst the amazing aspects this piece of paradise.
There is a nostalgia of riding a railcar along a beautiful coast, but among my peers, health and an active lifestyle are paramount. So many of us enjoy regular hiking and biking on the existing routes, and we are all excited about the potential conversion of the rail line.
In September of 2018 several of us travelled to Penticton to ride along the Kettle Valley trail. It was fantastic. The Island Corridor route could be an even bigger draw for cyclists and hikers who would enjoy an opportunity to experience the spectacular east coast of Vancouver island. I imagine pubs, and B&B’s set up along the way generating tourism wealth while providing healthy family activity. Diversions into the wine country are not an option on the train.
I would enjoy to ride on a train with my grandkids, but to ride the trail with them on bicycles would be sublime!
I am requesting that you either support this healthy family initiative or help me understand why a ride in a railcar is a better option.
Thanks and best wishes,
January 25, 2019
Dear Premier Horgan
There is a tragic and expensive mistake in the making according to the political talk around the proposed resurrection of the E & N Railway. Who in their right mind believes that the train can be up and safely running for 18 million dollars? (The original estimate proposed to get it up and running). Why, our collective governments could eat that money up in studies before a spike is hammered or a tie replaced!
With all the trestles, and crossings needed to be upgraded on this 130 year old line we could easily be into this train folly for many hundreds of millions of dollars.
And who will ride such a train with it’s 240 level crossings necessitating a snails pace speed. The previous dayliner had several traffic incidents a year, some resulting in deaths. The liability insurance alone could total an onerous bill.
It is time to open our eyes to the potential this corridor could offer to the whole Island should it be converted to a hiking/ biking trail. Such a trail could be operational far before a rail service, be far cheaper,and provide a world class destination for hikers and bikers from near and far.
Studies show that such trails attract clean tourism to areas serviced and those utilizing the trails stay in the area longer.
Anyone doubting this should check out the Sacramento River trails in California, the Kettle Valley trail in the Okanogan and the Galloping Goose in Victoria. Incidentally, the Galloping Goose entertains well over 800,000 visitors yearly!
An E & N trail could eventually join up with the Powell River Ferry, providing a wonderful circle route for visitors from the mainland.
It is time to admit that we don’t need another slow, expensive, seldom used and outdated rail system. We do, however, need a first class multi use trail system running up and down our beautiful Island with a carbon free footprint.
My bike is ready….How about yours?
December 13, 2018
Dear Minister Travena;
Please do not authorize the spending of money to re-introduce rail transportation to Vancouver Island. Instead please support turning the old railway into a hiking and biking trail system.
Imagine, a hiking and biking trail system running between Victoria, Courtenay and Port Alberni. Imagine the scenery! Imagine the revenue from food, beverages, accommodation, etc., that would be generated from such a system.
Other BC communities are currently enjoying the economic and personal health benefits of hiking and biking trails that were built on decommissioned rail lines. Examples are the Kettle Valley Rail Trail and the Columbia & Western Rail Trail which between them make up the longest rail trail network in British Columbia extending from Hope to Castlegar. Another rail to trail is the North Star Rails to Trails that runs between Cranbrook and Kimberley. Of course there’s also Victoria’s Galloping Goose Trail.
If in the distant future there’s a requirement for rail service on Vancouver Island then the trails could be converted back to rail lines. In the meantime Vancouver Island residents could not only reap the economic benefit but also the health benefits of what could be one of the most spectacular rail to trail systems in the world.
December 4, 2018
Dear Premier Horgan and Minister Trevena:
I understand that the Island Corridor Foundation is making a push for funding in returning rail service on Vancouver Island.
I am hopeful that you will not proceed with this idea because, in my opinion:
The NDP of yesteryears did a great job of providing us with the Inland Highway and there is no need for a rail link.
The population of the island is not currently and may never be sufficient to justify a rail link.
In the event that a rail link were to be useful, it would have to be capable of sustained speeds much higher than the current track could provide.
The current state of the ties on the rail and the status of some of trestles would have to be extensively and expensively upgraded.
It makes much more sense to allocate rail funds to reduce the congestion in the Greater Victoria area by the use of a light rail system.
Furthermore, my opinion is that a trail link running from Victoria (tying into The Great (TransCanada) Trail) to the Comox Valley and perhaps ultimately Campbell River makes much more sense:
It would be much less expensive to build – less upgrading to the trestles based upon much lower load requirements and much less expensive to operate and maintain.
The rails could be recycled to reduce the cost.
Other similar projects in BC, The Galloping Goose, the Kettle Valley and the new Kamloops to Kelowna trails as well as other transitioned train tracks in Canada have seemingly been a boon for recreation and tourism.
What a legacy to have created a multi-use path with restaurants and guest houses stretching almost the length of the Island.
Let’s invest in the future not a nostalgic past.
Eric Alexandre P.Eng (retired), Comox BC
November 5th, 2018
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure
Province of British Columbia
Dear Minister Trevena
At the suggestion of Premier Horgan on November 3rd, on behalf of FORT-VI (Friends of Rails to Trails -Vancouver Island), my colleague Alastair Craighead and I are requesting a meeting with you to discuss the future of the E+N Right of Way.
For the past ten years or so, Island residents and Local Governments have been frustrated by the failure of the ICF, the custodian of the corridor, to develop a viable plan for its use. Meanwhile a good deal of public money has been spent on infrastructure in support of .a non-existent rail service. Also, trails with Rail have been built in some sections at needlessly high cost using scarce tax transfer funds.
The ICF claims to have viable plans to re-establish rail service on the E+N corridor. In the seven years since the line was closed for safety reasons no credible business plan for this has been made available to the public or local governments. On the contrary there have been several government funded studies which fail to demonstrate the feasibility and viability of a modern railway on this corridor. This lack of accountability and transparency in the stewardship of a public asset is unacceptable.
No alternatives to rail have been considered by the ICF for the corridor. This is partly because the ICF constitution commits them to support rail service. This constitution can, we believe, be changed by the ICF membership. We will provide information on this when we meet.
FORT-VI has collected more than 3000 signatures on a petition in support of conversion of the corridor to a multi-purpose trail. We would like to see a fair evaluation of this as an option for the future use of the corridor. We believe, based on studies to date, that it is unlikely that rail in this corridor will make an affordable or significant contribution to transportation on the Island. Rather, it is likely that the high costs, low potential traffic and large subsidies required will create a negative economic impact.
On the other hand, trails have been demonstrated to be of growing significance in generating positive economic impacts including transportation services, tourism opportunities and health and recreational benefits. In particular it would provide economic and employment benefits for First Nations communities who have suffered only negative impacts since the creation of this particular railway.
But most importantly, in our meeting with you, we would like to discuss how moving forward, public accountability will be brought to the management of this unique public asset .
cc Premier John Horgan
cc MLA Ronna Rae Leonard
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