The mayor of small B.C. town along the Fraser River is asking the province to look at bringing back rail service between Vancouver and Prince George.
Lillooet Mayor Marg Lampman has been working on increasing rail service in the region for years but said the issue became much more pressing once Greyhound announced it would be pulling out of B.C. this fall.
“It’s leaving a lot of communities with no options for public transport,” said Lampman.
She said that Lillooet, a community located 240 kilometres north along a rail line from Vancouver, has never had bus service.
Lampman is bringing her call for rail service along the Vancouver to Prince George corridor to the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention next weekend.
There, she wants the province’s other cities to band together and ask the government for a feasibility study on bringing back rail service.
“I am not a whiz on rail costs or anything and that is why you need a study to determine if that is going to be a good initiative,” said Lampman.
The route between Vancouver and Prince George hasn’t seen regular rail service in 16 years, despite Lampman having lobbied the government for it in 2016.
Although rail service was heavily cut by the former Liberal government in 2002, Lampman said it’s time for it to come back.
“When that was shut down in 2002 that put real pressures on the community,” said Lampman.
“We have people who cannot afford a vehicle and we have seniors who can no longer drive who need to go to medical appointment [in Vancouver].”
Lampman isn’t insistent on it being a cheap form of travel, but just an alternative to driving.
“If you compare what it costs you to drive from Prince George to Vancouver,” she said, “the price of gas, insurance, time and compare that to what a ticket would cost.”
Lampman said she’s been in touch with VIA Rail, but is looking to the province to act.
She said the federal government has failed to provide rail service that B.C., with its spread out, rural population, desperately needs.
“[The feds] do it east of Manitoba but yet nothing has been done west of that. It’s time to sit down with the federal govt for their participation,” she said.
Although she is open to the province lending a helping hand to make the rail service financially viable, Lampman believes it could be a great tourist opportunity,
“It would be used buy international tour companies to sell tours,” she said.
“I can imagine a tour group going by rail to Prince George, then to Prince Rupert and then catching a ferry along the coast. It would be one of the best tours in the world.”