EDITORIAL: Get back on track

When it comes to rail relocation, politicians can't play both sides of the track.

When it comes to the topic of relocating or realigning the rail line that runs along the White Rock and South Surrey waterfront, much has been said by our elected representatives.

We want to do it; we can do it in five years; we can do it one of four ways; it will cost $350-400 million; safety is top priority; this is sort of our long-term goal; and, oh wait, it’s on the back burner.

New Conservative MP Dianne Watts – Surrey’s former mayor and formerly robust backer of relocation – has made it known she doesn’t like the term ‘back burner’ in a recent Peace Arch News story about her successful motion for a federal study of safety in the rail corridor.

The fact remains that when asked by PAN if realignment remained her main priority, Watts answered “we are not discussing the realignment at this time… (rail safety, Crescent Beach access and foreshore erosion) is the priority at this time.”

Watts asserts in a letter to the editor published today that making a strong business case, along with stakeholder and c ommunity input, is crucial in effecting any change to the BNSF line, which might potentially include relocation options. But her apparent reluctance to say she is making a case for relocation is curious.

At a November 2013 forum, Watts and White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin presented four options for relocating the track. Watts at that time said moving the rail line was an effort she and city staff realized “we needed to resurrect.”

The following September, White Rock council voted to “initiate the process” for relocation of the BNSF tracks, and approved spending up to $20,000 to hire a consultant for guidance. In October 2014, that consultant said the city had a compelling argument.

It should be noted that despite the support of realignment by a large number of people, many others in the community and beyond doubt it will ever happen. As well, there is no discernible motivation for BNSF to jump on the relocation train.

A commitment to improving safety suggested by the current federal study can’t be begrudged; but given the history, it’s fair to wonder if that commitment, too, will one day shift.

On an issue that has been hotly debated, there’s little patience for walking the line. If the commitment isn’t there, or can’t be made, concede defeat and focus on making it something everyone can live with. Dangling a carrot that will forever remain just out of reach – indeed playing both sides of the track – is unacceptable.