Rural Railways- Time to Invest.

Recommendations to save Japan’s rural railways issued


JAPAN: A study group formed by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport & Tourism has published its report into whether and to what extent rural railways across the country can be revived.

From the Railway Gazette.

Ottawa O-Train, a modern DMU operating on a single track rural railway.

Ottawa O-Train, a modern DMU operating on a single track rural railway.

The following was sent to the usual suspects.


Around the world, investment in regional and rural railways is recognized as necessary for the fight against Global Warming and Climate Change, yet in BC and in Canada there is silence.

In Europe over a thousand km of disused or abandoned railways are now being refurbished for regional passenger service; in the UK, long abandoned rail routes are being relaid for new regional passenger rail services.

In BC and in Canada there is silence.

In BC and in Canada, railways are deemed obsolete by politicians and senior bureaucrats, who enjoy free first class travel on national and regional air services, leaving the car as the only affordable mode of transport for the average person.

The provincial and Canadian governments are investing in transit, but it is the wrong kind of transit.

Example: The much photo-opped Expo Line extension to Surrey will cost (including the guide-way and new operations and maintenance centre but not the vehicles) $4.5 billion to $5 billion, yet upon opening, according to Translink’s own numbers, carry less ridership than what the Broadway B-Line buses carried in 2019!

In comparison, $4.5 billion to $5 billion would buy you a completely refurbished E&N Railway, offering a maximum service of 3 trips per hour per direction from Victoria to Courtney and a Vancouver to Chilliwack modern Interurban service, offering a maximum of three trips per hour per direction and a European style tramway connecting UBC to BCIT and Stanley Park.

The $3 billion Millennium Line, Broadway subway is more of the same “Photo-op” transit planning. Upon opening, the Millennium Line’s automatic train control system will be upgraded at a cost of $1.47 billion (not included with the subway cost) to allow a maximum capacity of 7,500 persons per hour per direction, yet the North American standard for building a subway, is a transit route with traffic flows in excess of 15,000 pphpd!

Please, tell me why the business cases for both projects did not mention this?

The answer is: BC Government business cases are politcal documents masquerading as technical documents.

The current heat dome is another sign of increasing Global Warming, but our politicians including the so called Greens, remain mute; our mainstream media largely remain mute and only regional newspapers seem brave enough to question current government spending on photo-op ready transit schemes.

What will it take for politicians to stop doing the same thing over and over again, ever hoping for different results and take real action and not staged photo-ops with empty promises.

Two major transit schemes, the E&N and the return of the Interurban to the Fraser Valley, providing 360 km of regional railway which will provide an user-friendly and affordable alternative to the car, can be built for much less money than the proposed 16 km, $4.5 to $5 billion Expo Line extension to Langley!

Could it be that regional, provincial, and federal politicians and bureaucrats are afraid that a much cheaper regional railway solution would provide a superior transportation alternative when compared to the current blinkered rapid transit only planning?

When will all politcal parties demand an affordable transportation option for the transit customer and taxpayer, instead of the current and hugely expensive rapid transit, which seems to be built for pre-election photo-ops.

One tires of the endless staged photo-ops, full of meaningless promises currently being offered, by politicians who seem not to care.

Real action is needed.

Global Warming and climate change will not wait for the next election cycle.



2 Responses to “Rural Railways- Time to Invest.”
  1. Major Hoople says:

    Yes, rural railways are making a comeback in a big way. Using established rail routes is a lot cheaper than the land assemblies needed for new autobahns. Most abandoned rail routes, those not converted to autobahn are still in tact and need little engineering.

    The DB is now experimenting with quick load/unload containers to operate with passenger services, where small containers can be off loaded in the normal dwell time of a passenger service at a station and be picked up by a lorry for delivery.

    There is much happening here but in your part of the world, stagnation seems to rule the day.

  2. Haveacow says:

    If you want more rural rail than you have to get political support but also incredibly important is to overcome the myth of everything must make a profit. It all comes down to the perception that it should or must make money to be useful. Most people believe roads make money, unfortunately only about 5% of the national road mileage even pays for itself.

    It irritates me so much that I will here that money should go into airports instead of intercity rail because airlines make money and VIA Rail doesn’t. VIA Rail has to maintain its own stations and most of the signals along railway lines it doesn’t own but must pay to use. Airlines pay user fees and rent hangers at Airports but these costs are negligible compared to the user fees railways have to pay. Airlines don’t have to buy airports. Airlines don’t have to pay for the sky they travel through. Landing rights in foreign countries yes, but so do railways.

    Most airlines don’t do there own maintenance anymore, they use holding companies they own, to do the work, so they can pay people less. Many airlines have illegally blocked unions from taking root in their companies. VIA Rail would be severely, legally and regulatorily punished if they did half of what even what Westjet does to its employees. Railways, like VIA Rail, are forced to fund, man and maintain traffic control systems directly with their own funding, the government does this for airlines (which are private companies not government agencies) and funds it through general government taxes for them.

    Rural Railways will get a better deal when we come to terms with the fact that, both major (freight and passenger) road users and airlines, most of which are private companies, get massively subsidized by multiple levels of government compared to railways in this country. Even the almost completely privatized CN Rail and CP Rail (which owes it existence to government support) get paltry infrastructure and operating support compared to road, air and marine companies, let alone, an organization like VIA Rail. A railway which must rebuild 400 km of torn up, former CP Rail mainlines in Ontario and Quebec, the High Frequency Rail proposal (thanks CP Rail), so VIA trains don”‘t get positioned behind slow moving freight trains anymore.

    Zwei replies: `100% agreement. The excuse now being used by the anti rail types, including a few NDP ministers to completely abandon the E&N railway on Vancouver island is that “the railway was built for steam locomotives”.

    And wasn’t the CPR and CNR originally built for steam locomotives as well?

    Privately I have been told by a former NDP MLA, who has washed hands of the party, that there is great fear that our Rail for the Valley scheme will attract more new riders than the billions being spent on SkyTrain. When the person was an MLA he was blocked from getting information about SkyTrain because it was proprietary, yet the same government claims that SkyTrain is not proprietary.

    Now going the the rounds is this daft idea with a high speed or bullet train service from Chilliwack to Vancouver, using the #1 highway route. I penned a letter reminding one local paper that HST needs very gradual vertical and horizontal curvatures and that all the present over passes would need to be replaced and yes, the new Port Mann Bridge probably would not support such a service. Cost???? Well that doesn’t matter in the land of sparkle ponies and pixie dust.

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