Posts Tagged ‘E & N Railway’

News About the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway

October 27, 2010


Oct 26, 2010


“We’ve made formal application to VIA Rail to move the terminus from Victoria to Nanaimo and initiate an early morning southbound rail service from Nanaimo to Victoria. This would tie in to the daily service that then runs from Victoria to Courtenay, and provides a more friendly service for people on the rail, moving to the southern sector of Victoria” 



A comment by Zweisystem
$15 million is chump change for a transit project these days and I hope that Federal and provincial politicians look “three minutes into the future” and fund this worthwhile investment.
Zweisystem believes that two TramTrain services on the E&N are both feasible and practical.
TramTrain option 1.
Shawnigan Lake to Victoria, with a 3 to 4 kilometer streetcar loop in Victoria for the use of both TramTrain and heritage trams.
TramTrain option 2.
Duncan to Nanaimo Harbour, with limited on-street (streetcar) operation to the BC Ferry Depot.
The cost to provide an hourly schedule for both options would be well under $250 million or about 1 km. of a Broadway/UBC subway.

Islanders ignore fiscal realities as they rail to save decrepit E&N – Has anyone planned for TramTrain

July 23, 2010
The following item from the Vancouver Sun, is one of the most ill researched pieces of anti-rail nonsense I have seen in a long while. Mr. Palmer demonstrates his total lack of knowledge of ‘rail‘ transport and loudly supports the government line of not investing in the E&N Railway. It is so sad that the state of BC’s journalism concerning ‘rail‘ transit is so dismal.
What is obvious is that the BC government has greatly extended itself financially on vote getting projects like a retractable roof on BC, Place or spending $1.5 billion more for a truncated subway line instead of LRT for the RAV/Canada Line, or the needless multi-billion dollar ‘Gateway‘ Highways project, and just doesn’t want to deal with the E&N Railway. There is not enough Liberal support on Vancouver island to warrant any investment, which in turn, may lead to a Liberal rout in the next election.
At an estimated upfront cost as high as $168 million in current dollars plus a subsidy of $3.5 million a year, commuter rail would not qualify as a low-budget option” is chump change for ‘rail’ transit projects in BC. Compare a $3.5 million annual E & N subsidy to SkyTrain’s annual provincial subsidy of $230 million or $168 million cost to rehabilitate the E & N with the gold-plated $1.4 billion, plus, Evergreen Line.
According to Susan Heyes research, the real cost of the RAV/Canada Line has now believed to have exceeded $2.8 billion and  the cost to bring the RAV/Canada Line operation on par with LRT (the scope of the project was greatly reduced as the project was rocketing over budget), would need an investment of $1 billion to $2 billion more, yet the mainstream media remains quiet on more expensive transportation fiascoes in the province! The cost of the needless $140 million SkyTrain faregate/turnstile project would almost pay for the rehabilitation of the E & N railway!
Mr. Palmer continues with his tired anti-rail rhetoric, “Then, too, the line has some 240 level crossings each a recipe for accidents, service interruptions, lawsuits and soaring insurance “, ignores the fact that most of the level crossings are protected by lights and are safer than traffic intersections with no light control at all! Of course, there are thousands of such road intersections on the island that are also each “a recipe for accidents, service interruptions, lawsuits, and soaring insurance“! If one follows Mr. Palmer’s logic, he would have us abandon all roads, except divided highways!
In the rest of the world, railway tourism is very big and will draw many local and international tourists, but if the product is poorly maintained or lacks a draw like operating ‘live steam’ trains, the knowledgeable tourist will give it a pass.
What is needed for the E & N is an independent review of the railway, not a government orchestrated ‘kiss of death’. A TramTrain operation on part or all of the line could just be the tonic needed to get the grand old lady, the E & N Railway, back on firm fiscal ground. Maybe upcoming news about the RFV Vancouver to Chilliwack interurban may give impetuous for a rethink on the E & N. In fact, the government needs a complete rethink on ‘rail‘ transport, as the Department of Transportation and the Minister responsible, seem to be firmly stuck in the 19th century!
As for the mainstream media, they constantly embarrass themselves when they report on ‘rail‘ news and badly need to take a primer on modern ‘rail’ transport, including tourist trains, TramTrain, and more, lest they become nothing more than shills, rubber stamping  propaganda from a largely discredited government, which is desperately spending the taxpayers money on multi billion dollar, voter friendly, mega-projects in the Metro Vancouver area.

Islanders ignore fiscal realities as they rail to save decrepit E&N

By Vaughn Palmer, Vancouver Sun

July 22, 2010

The B.C. Liberal government decision last week not to spend tens of millions of dollars on a rescue of the decrepit E&N railway brought an angry if predictable reaction in the provincial capital region.

An insult. A stark contrast to hefty funding elsewhere in the province. The government doesn’t spend nearly enough on transportation on Vancouver Island.

The previous New Democratic Party government spent $1 billion on a new Island Highway. And as residents of the southern Interior have noted, it was toll-free, unlike the Coquihalla Highway for the first 20 years of its existence.

In its current term, the government has seen a massive expenditure on capital construction for ferries and terminals, plus more than $1 billion in direct subsidies for the ferry service.

But as we say on the Island — I’ve lived here for most of three decades — “what have they done for us lately?”

Still, judging from the series of reports released by the government in support of its decision, it is hard to make the case that an E&N makeover would be the best use of public infrastructure dollars on the Island.

The line, 125 years old and neglected for decades, is in wretched shape. A third of the ties are already defective; many others are rotting their way to imminent ruin. “The bulk of the rail joints are in poor condition and not in compliance with the regulations.”

Some of the signalling equipment is so out of date, spare parts can no longer be purchased. (Rummage sales?) Plus, sad to say, “most frogs need grinding.” (Love that railway jargon).

More serious, from a standpoint of long-term reliability, “some bridges date back before the corridor and were reassembled here after being in service elsewhere in Canada in the 1800s.” (!)

Note that the government-funded stock-taking on the line did not include a seismic review. Maybe there are some instances where it is better not to know the true state of affairs.

Then, too, the line has some 240 level crossings, each a recipe for accidents, service interruptions, lawsuits and soaring insurance premiums. “Injury damage awards have been high, particularly for long-term debilitating injuries.”

In sum, without significant investment in upkeep, “the line will become inoperable.” Figure $70 million to maintain the status quo, between $200 million and $300 million if service is to be expanded. But the prospects for expanded utilization are, at best, iffy.

Freight? Current volumes on the line amount to about three carloads a day. The most likely prospect for growth would necessitate persuading industry, mainly the troubled forest sector, to switch back to rail from trucks.

Tourism? “Major tour group operators often did not view the Victoria-based tourist train as a high-profile enough rail excursion to include in their itineraries.”

Passengers? The line averages fewer than 300 trips per day at peak season, a mere 41,000 paying customers in an entire year. Improved service might reap a three-to fourfold increase in passengers, presuming an investment of at least $100 million, plus an annual subsidy of $1.6 million a year.

One of the reports suggested that at least part of the line could be transformed into something other than a historical artifact, by adapting a 17-kilometre stretch into a commuter rail service linking downtown Victoria to the communities west of the city.

Rebuild with double-tracking in some stretches. Construct four new stations and a maintenance facility. Improve safety at some two dozen level crossings. Invest in new vehicles like those on Ottawa’s O-train.

At an estimated upfront cost as high as $168 million in current dollars plus a subsidy of $3.5 million a year, commuter rail would not qualify as a low-budget option. Still, if you build it, won’t they come?

Maybe not. The E&N corridor is out of whack with regional travel patterns. The service would be oriented toward commuters going to and from work in downtown Victoria. But four out of five regional trips are by people headed elsewhere for other purposes. And even for the one in five headed to and from work, the track runs out annoyingly short of the employment and commercial core of the city.

Plus the one-way travel time, even on the refurbished line, would be 30 minutes. “This is a fairly slow service for a 17-kilometre trip and may cause many potential passengers to continue commuting by automobile.”

Still Victoria’s E&N boosters say transit is a chronic money loser and that hasn’t stopped government from expanding the network on the mainland. Look at the West Coast Express. Look at that nifty new Canada Line.

Okay, let’s look. The projected usage of the E&N commuter line is just over 1,000 riders per working day, fewer than 300,000 in a year.

The West Coast Express hauls the latter tally worth of commuters back and forth in a little over a month. The Canada Line carries that many people in three days.

I love my Island home. But from time to time, I do wonder at the fiscal logic of some of my fellow Islanders.

Read more:

Who Should Run The Interurban?

March 5, 2009

Who should run the proposed interurban service from Vancouver to Chilliwack? This is an important question that must be addressed before any operation is to commence.


TransLink has been against the ‘return of the interurban’ from the start and the recent study done by an engineering firm that had no background in modern LRT was predictable. Why would you consider commuter rail on a route that was not designed for standard passenger cars, but for light-rail in a form of an interurban? TransLink knows this, yet preceded with a transit study that was not only questionable, but next to useless. If the study was so good, why do another (after the election)? Traditionally TransLink has thought of LRT as a poor-man’s SkyTrain that has inferior service, even believing that just by building with SkyTrain, will attract about double the ridership. Funny though, TransLink never offers any studies that would substantiate this claim. But TransLink is the regional public transit operating authority and maybe compelled to plan and operate the interurban.

A South Fraser Transportation Agency

The new interurban service may herald a new South Fraser Transportation Agency to run public transit South of the Fraser River, from Delta or Surrey to Chilliwack. Certainly when South Fraser taxpayer’s, faced with large property tax (read TransLink tax) increases to pay for very expensive ‘metro’ in other municipalities, may want to walk away from TransLink and even ‘Metro” Vancouver. In the very near future, the municipalities with RAV and/or SkyTrain, may have to pay the full shot! A new South Fraser Transportation Agency may be created out of the chaos and wish to plan for and operate much cheaper light-rail, in its various forms, instead.

Southern Railway of BC

As the proposed interurban service will operate on largely S.R.R. trackage they may be asked to run the service. Who knows better how to run a railway than those who run railways. Certainly if the interurban connects to Vancouver proper, via the existing Fraser River Rail Bridge, the S.R.R. will be asked to negotiate pathways (with historical rights going back to the BC Electric) with the CNR and Burlington Northern Sante Fe, to operate the service. The S.R.R. may be asked to run the interurban as a separate subsidized service for the province  or TransLink or even operate the interurban as a private venture. The S.R.R. maybe very interested in operating the interurban, light-rail, and tram-trains as the operation maybe a successful template for the E&N railway on Vancouver Island and many other short line railways.

The Province of BC & BC Transit

The Province of BC  may operate the interurban, strictly for political reasons, through BC Transit. BC Transit is TransLink’s older brother and has a dubious history with modern light-rail, which TransLink inherited, but may be compelled to by the transportation ministry and the Minister of Transportation.

The question of who will operate the proposed interurban is an important one and must be answered before the first tram-train operates. At this point of time Zweisystem will not give his preference but let the reader ponder four options or, if he/she wants, offer their own.