Letters to the Editor

LETTERS: Tracking our political leadership

Waterfront visitors to White Rock last weekend take a closer look at a passing freight train on the BNSF tracks. - A.P Hovasse (aphovasse Instagram) photo
Waterfront visitors to White Rock last weekend take a closer look at a passing freight train on the BNSF tracks.
— image credit: A.P Hovasse (aphovasse Instagram) photo

Editor:

Re: Province on board for rail relocation, Feb. 10.

Hooray! Another big step taken toward the rail-relocation goal. Thanks to Todd Stone, B.C.’s transportation and infrastructure minister, for his letter of support to Marc Garneau, federal minister of transportation, for the next step of moving the railway line off our beautiful beaches on this peninsula.

Also thanks to Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg.

It would be a huge relief if we did not have to worry about a derailment of hazardous goods such as chlorine.

If we could move the rails, more visitors/tourists would come, which would support our dying businesses on Marine Drive.

Eve Weimer, White Rock

• • •

It has become clear that special interests and political opportunists seem to be pushing this ‘pie in the sky’ project. This is just what taxpayers need. Our hard-earned money funding a study that will bear no new information handed to someone who has political ties.

Having spent over 40 years in the rail industry, I can tell you for free that the project has no merit or chance of coming to fruition. The only beneficiaries are those pushing it or those who visualize their properties’ values soaring along the decaying White Rock waterfront.

Make no mistake, this relocation could easily top $1 billion, with compensation costs to BNSF, as well as new construction. Rest assured, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or Premier Christy Clark aren’t about to pick up that tab.

Consider that BNSF has recently spent millions upgrading the line from Blaine to Surrey. They are not about to walk away from that nor the capital investment without major compensation and operating benefits.

The inconvenience of having the rail line in its current location is at best minimal, considering the low number of trains per day. Safety, while important, cannot be said to be a major issue, as trains are travelling at a slow speed on a Class 1 rail bed that is inspected daily.

While there have been pedestrian incidents, these are not the fault of the railway. More people are struck by vehicles in a week than the total on the rail line in years.

What we also have is clearly uninformed, subject-ignorant politicians – who have no understanding of the rail-transportation industry and its vital interest to the wellbeing of our economy – jumping on the bandwagon for their own selfish political purposes.

Stephen Morris, Surrey

• • •

Neither the province or the federal government would deem rail relocation worthy of study unless they were convinced that the benefits – economic, social and environmental – were sufficiently important for the wider region, province and the country.

Surely, it is evident that all residents of Greater Vancouver, especially those living south of Fraser, will be direct beneficiaries of rail relocation, by unlocking much-needed waterfront recreational opportunities.

A recent article in PAN (Tourism ‘requires product,’ Feb. 3) suggested White Rock’s largest market is Metro Vancouver. It isn’t only those who live in White Rock who just might like a day out at the beach. I don’t think it is that hard to imagine White Rock being the epicentre of a dedicated multi-use trail connecting it with Delta, Surrey, Steveston, New Westminister, Richmond and Vancouver.

Those of us who support rail relocation understand there are wide-ranging benefits far beyond White Rock borders for different stakeholders, so I am heartened to see provincial-governmental support for the feasibility study, which will finally answer all the questions that have surrounded rail relocation for so many years.

By identifying a route and doing a cost-benefit analysis, real numbers can finally be determined, putting to rest all the wild guessing about possible costs, etc. At least, then, we can then have a proper debate of its merits based on facts instead, dare I say, ‘alternative’ facts.

Hannah Newman, White Rock

• • •

Another sure sign the provincial election is looming is Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone’s expressed support for a study to relocate the BNSF rail route away from the Semiahmoo Peninsula shoreline.

Studies are wonderful things for politicians to support this close to the election. They get to curry favour with voters concerned about the issues without having to make any actual commitments, leaving them free to walk away once the study is complete and the election is over.

A little common sense is advisable in conceptualizing a BNSF relocation. To start, the current rail line is at sea level because, wait for it, it is level. If the rail line were to be relocated away from the shoreline, the line would either have to go through a long and expensive tunnel or relocate a long way east up the Fraser Valley.

A re-route up the valley would also require a similar re-routing within Washington State – and no combination of Canadian federal, provincial and municipal governments have any authority south of the 49th.

A relocation of the BNSF line would obviously find favour with White Rock residents, but which other Metro Vancouver communities would welcome a new coal-dust-spewing rail line through their backyards?

The more practical solution is to phase out thermal-coal shipments entirely in favour of more environmentally responsible energy solutions, and restrict the movement of other freight on the line to 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., allowing White Rock and other communities to enjoy their days train-free. But that would require political leadership.

Jef Keighley, Surrey

 

 

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