Malahat crash shows need for better rail

Budd Car on Blue Bridge. Neither likely to be replaced anytime soon. Photo Credit Mick Hall
Budd Car on Blue Bridge. Neither likely to be replaced anytime soon. Photo Credit Mick Hall

The Malahat crash that killed at least one person is merely the latest in example of why we need to fix the rail link up the island. Imagine if this accident has involved one of the dozens of trucks carrying dangerous chemicals and gases up and down the island? The consequence are pretty horrible to think of. And as we approach winter, we are again reminded that the Malahat is one of the few places on the island that regularly gets snow and ice during the coldest parts of year, merely adding to the danger.

Thankfully the solutions are actually pretty cheap. Just rebuilding the track bed would allow expanded freight service and a modest investment in new passenger vehicles would make passenger trips much faster and more pleasant. None of these things have a huge price tag. The Island Corridor Foundation, a consortium of Native bands, municipalities and others, who own the trackbed and land have estimated the cost at a mereĀ $30 million to rebuild the entire corridor to modern standards. This is just a little bit more than the cost of either the stalled Spencer’s Road or new McTavish Road interchanges. As for passenger service, the Ottawa O-Train pioneered the use of time separation to allow running of lighter trains on the shared lines. (There are some arcane North American rules about crash ratings for passenger trains running on mixed tracks, something Europe is not burdened with). The O-Train uses Bombardier’s Talent diesel trains (usually known as DMU, or Diesel-multi-units), which were tacked onto a German purchase. For more money numbers and and some interesting background info, I suggest Transport Canada’s case study of the O-Train.

Are we likely to see any of this in the near future? Well, BC Transit is busy spending that money it was given by the province to study rapid transit in the CRD and scuttlebutt says that at least some portion of the E&N factors into those plans. As for the larger corridor itself, the Cowichan Valley Commuter might spur some interest on the northern side of the Malahat. However, I am not holding my breath.

4 thoughts on “Malahat crash shows need for better rail”

  1. The fiery crash by the propane tank on the Malahat back in 2000 – left the highway disabled for many hours. The only link availabe was by the Brentwood Bay ferry to Sydney and Victoria.
    That was nine years ago. Many lives have been lost on this particular mountain road, which was once just a horse and buggy trail and, not much better yet. While the Liberal gov’t has improved the logical road should be connecting at Langford and travelling north on the backside of the mountain to take, in particular all the trucks. The malahat grade is steep, in the winter, ice and snow almost impossile but – the government has chosen to ignore what should be done. What Liberal MLA Brian Kerr, with his three year tenure, accomplished was a great deal with the meridians, etc. however, – the safety factor is the back of the mountain – not its face.
    My friend, Ted Corino, is the latest victim of the mountain – which the Indians had long ago named the Powerful mountain. However, BC has no money. And, as for the railline – that has long been requested – at least to run south in the am and in the pm – travel north. But, bureacrats don’t even have that much knowledge or should I say common sense.

  2. I recently learned that Ted Carino had an aneurism before his car had hit the white jeep. Fortunately none others were killed. But – again it points for the need to have the merdians in place – his van would never then have crossed over to the other side. Such a pity and loss for the family, friends and for the fact he will never be able to enjoy his young little family.

  3. Marlene Stobbart,
    Where did you learn that Ted had an aneurism before his car had hit the white jeep? Please respond to me or call me at (306) XXX-XXX. Thanks.
    (ed – removed phone # for privacy)

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