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LETTER: Rail service an election issue

I have sent a letter to all Vancouver Island candidates in the upcoming provincial election to enlist their support to help restore rail service to Vancouver Island once and for all. The topic has been discussed for years by all levels of government since passenger rail service was cancelled in 2011. Quite frankly this issue should have been resolved long ago.

In particular, this is an issue which is very close to me. I am a second generation “railroader” and have spent most of my life associated with the railway on Vancouver Island from starting life in an E&N Railway employee family to being an Island rail supporter, advocate, and every point in-between.

Having seen the deterioration of the Island railway first-hand over the last 30-plus years, it saddens me to know this could have been resolved years ago. The good news is there is still time, though it is slipping by fast and I urge everyone to make this an election issue.

Today we are experiencing an ever-increasing population on the Island with the growth rate of automobiles exceeding that of the population. The impact this is having on Vancouver Island is alarming and should be cause for concern for all members of our Island community:

The recent South Island Transportation Strategy states transit times from Mill Bay to Victoria will increase from 39 minutes to two hours and 24 minutes by 2038. Our greenhouse gas emissions are not being reduced and we will not meet our targets. There is still no viable option to safely increase traffic flow through the Malahat.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, the recent South Island Transportation Strategy included virtually no plan or solution as to how to deal with the above noted issues. The strategy will only “explore” rail at some undetermined future date even though rail addresses each of the above noted issues right now. Rail provides an alternative to the Malahat and its ever-increasing congestion problems while simultaneously lowering greenhouse gas emissions by taking cars, buses, and trucks off the highway.

A recent survey by the Island Corridor Foundation found that 80 per cent of Islanders support the restoration of rail on Vancouver Island. The restoration of rail service is also supported by the BC Chamber of Commerce, the South Island Prosperity Partnership, and the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities.

Today I own a rail services company that provides support for independent railway owners and provides logistics and railway engineering related services. I can tell you this is not a particularly complicated project and is much cheaper than comparable highway construction. Railway rebuilding is well understood within the industry and the work can be performed very quickly and efficiently.

Every detail of what is required to restore the Vancouver Island rail system to a modern-day standard has been established countless times in the numerous studies and assessments over the last 10 or more years. There is no need for anyone to say they don’t know what has to be done or we need to study it. Furthermore, the associated job benefits in terms of both reconstruction and the permanent jobs from the services the railway will provide are invaluable for Vancouver Island.

Jim Sturgill Jr.

View Royal