Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Vancouver Island Rail Corridor

Over the weekend the rail service had to be canceled because the tracks were not safe. The train would have had to run at 16 km/h instead of up to 64 km/h.

The weeds are dislodging the tracks and need to be removed. The Island Corridor Foundation has decided to use herbicides to do this. This would be the first time this has been done since 1989. I am sure that a lot of people are going to be very upset about this and demand that it not happen.

I am not sure how anyone thinks that this rail line will be able to make money and survive? The 223 km trip from Victoria to Courtney takes four and half hours. That is an average speed of 50 km/h. If I drive from Victoria to Courtney, I can drive that distance in 3 hours.

The train costs me $103 full fare or $60 discount fare for a return trip. The time and price compare not badly with the bus service - four to four and half hours and a fare of $77. But it does not compare well to using a car.

If I were to go with my partner and my three kids, the cost on Greyhound would be about $330 dollars and with Via about $380. In our own car, the costs are much lower - about $60 for fuel. We could rent a car for the weekend and have the cost be less - $250 for a three day weekend and then another $60 for fuel.

For this rail service to work, it has to be cheaper than the alternatives and reasonably fast. As it is now, the trip from Duncan to Victoria takes 90 minutes - too long for anyone to want to use it for if it were going in the correct direction, and it costs $32. Cobble Hill to Victoria is still 75 minutes. Langford into town takes 22 minutes. The trains are simply much too slow to be of interest.

I could see there being interest in the service if one could get from Cobble Hill to downtown in 45 minutes and the cost was $200 per month. But to accomplish this the Island Corridor Foundation would have to dramatically improve the rail line and add a lot more rolling stock. Rail rolling stock is about twice as expensive as buses to be able to carry a given number of people.

So, who will pay to make the E and N work well?
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