Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

‘Wrong way’ rail may be righted

with 7 comments

VIA6148 Victoria Stn BC Oct 1994

Times Colonist

The E&N Rail Dayliner could soon be turned around — starting up-Island in the morning and heading south from Nanaimo into Victoria for its first run of the day instead of the other way around.

“It’s something we’re definitely working on,” said Graham Bruce, executive director of the Island Corridor Foundation, which owns the rail line. “There’s a number of pieces to make this all work together. I think it’s quite plausible.”

Bruce said the change could take place as early as six months from now.

Currently, one 90-passenger car leaves Victoria each morning and travels to Courtenay before making a return trip at the end of the day. Islanders have complained for years that the train is going the wrong way and missing potential commuter traffic.

I will believe it when I see it. VIA Rail has known that this service was needed for at least the last twenty years – and probably a lot longer than that. I have never understood why they have persisted in refusing to run trains when people actually might want to use them. But then VIA rail is even more shambolic than Amtrak.

Actually the ideas are even more creative than the beginning of the story suggests

The idea would be to operate two trains out of Nanaimo. The first might leave at 6 a.m. for the capital region, then turn around for its trip to Courtenay.

A second train could leave Nanaimo shortly after that, carrying another load of people to the capital region, and then operate back and forth between Victoria’s downtown and Langford over the course of the day before heading back to Nanaimo.

Both Backhouse and Bruce say there is potential for excursion rail as well, with one run possibly linking up with a new cruise-ship terminal in Nanaimo and taking people to Cameron Lake.

The bad news is in the tail. There is also a proposal to open up a new coal mine near Union Bay which, if it ships coal for export  could bring significant new rail traffic. That might be good for the railway but it is not at all good for continued human survival on this planet. It is not clear but the way the story is currently put together suggests the coal might cross subsidize the passenger service. This seems somewhat more likely than government actually directing VIA to behave in the public interest.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 29, 2009 at 11:34 am

Posted in Railway

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7 Responses

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  1. You would hope that they upgrade the line before reversing the trains. The potential for significant commuter traffic riding the rails would mean increased liability if the line starts being anything more than a 40 km/h tourist line. Imagine if they doubled the cars and starting carrying near 200 people on each train.

    I suspect VIA has done nothing for this long because they don’t want the responsibility of commuter traffic riding their non-commuter focused train, nor do they want any involvement in the maintenance of the rail line itself, which if they were carrying significant numbers of people, they might be forced to do something about for safety reasons.



    October 29, 2009 at 4:56 pm

  2. VIA ia making upgrades back east…

    Via Rail to invest $40M in its stations
    Ontario, Quebec facilities to get 75% of the work

    Ron C.

    October 29, 2009 at 6:58 pm

  3. Ha. And how much is the ICF trying to get out of the province for upgrades? 5 million a year for 6 or 7 years?



    October 29, 2009 at 9:19 pm

  4. Since the 1990 Judicial decision that Via must operate the E&N, The Minister of Transport in Ottawa who owns Via is no more into commuter rail than he was when the West Coast express was introduced on C.P. tracks and maintained by Via.
    The legal obligation is with British Columbia as the won the lawsuit over The Minister of Transport trying to cut and gut the service.
    From 1997 to this date I have had nothing but positive mail from Victoria on the commuter rail idea.
    The new freight operator B.C. Southern which runs both the Island and the Fraser Valley trackage between New westminster and Chilliwack has been under pressure to dispatch Via the other way in cooperation of the public. They do not put much freight on either track. So likewise the heat is still on the Fraser Valley side too.
    Via is under obligation to run the service and the Judgement was won for the people to use it in the best way possible. Its your railway, much like the Fraser valley section is ours through B.C. Hydro.
    I can say this. In 2000 Via was given 400 million to put sewage retention tanks on the Budd car fleet of 158 cars in the trans-continental service. With 200 milliuon of they bought a chunnel train and are using in the corridor. They did not give the Island the commuter rail train or funds needed to do so. Instead VIa flew it all in the face of the judgement.
    They would not stab there boss in the back fearing the repercutions may only add to the misery.
    In 2005 Via was given 725 million on completion of the tank program to fix up there locomotives with proper lighting and louder horns. Still no commuter train or money from Via for the E&N.
    Via is wagging its tail on the gravy train, while the Island sits hungry and hopeful the dog may turn on Via.
    I was in Duncan last week watching the Budd Car stop and let a lady off(slam bam and thank you mam) and the car rolls toward Victoria. I was at Shawnigan Lake stop down the way a bit and we talked with locals at the cafe across from Subway.
    A group had put posters up but no meeting called here. They would support the cause over coffee.
    Victoria was a a new problem with the bridge being ripped down and replaced. The station is on the city side and could be moved across.
    The Langford Mayor talked to me a few years back about the proposal and it can be done. Victoria city is not really on the commuter rail side. It might be if B.C. Transit had control of it and not Via, yet commuter rail cannot replace Via service as its part of the inter-city national run.
    That is a problem to be resolved because its a jurisdictional one. The fraser valley does not have that problem. C.P.Rail will not integrate passenger services on the line between Cloverdale and Trinity Western mile board. Must bring back memories on the Island when C.P.ran both services.
    We have to pull this together in one big group to tackle Via and her boss. Bottom Line: the funding has been there more than once this century and its will be there again

    Bryan Vogler

    October 30, 2009 at 5:49 pm

  5. A few 360 person (160 seated) capacity Bombardier bi-level railcars would go a long way towards making this a cheap, viable commuter railroad. Vancouver has 37 and Toronto has over 400, perhaps a loan is in order.


    December 16, 2009 at 2:17 pm

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