The possibility of a passenger train once again linking North Vancouver and Prince George – with a stop in Squamish – has been discussed for years but is now on the top of the minds’ of mayor and council.
Mayor Patricia Heintzman and all six members of council are attending the Union of BC Municipalities convention in Victoria next week to put forward a resolution for the return of passenger rail service through Squamish, which was stopped in 2002.
“We need to start thinking of trains again due to climate change and the environment,” Heintzman told The Squamish Chief. “They have less emissions per person than a car.”
The end of passenger train service between North Vancouver and Prince George caused serious damage to community life, tourism and the economy of the communities on the route, including Squamish, according to the resolution that will be debated at the convention next week. The provincial government provides written comments after the debate takes place.
Transporting people by train would also free up space on the Sea to Sky Highway, Heintzman said.
“If we can take, say, 20 per cent of the traffic with an alternative, we can extend the life of the highway,” she said.
“There has been no interest at the provincial level to discuss this. Instead there is a focus on bigger highways and not alternative options. The UBCM will get this discussion out there.”
In the past, UBCM members have supported expanding rail networks in B.C., Including the creation of an electric rail network that would provide passenger and freight service between urban centres.
Local government from all regions of the province will gather at the UBCM convention, which runs from Sept. 26 to 30.
The goal of the convention is for communities of all sizes to come together, share their experiences and take a united position. Their concerns are brought to other orders of government and organizations involved in local affairs. The ultimate result is supposed to improve the communities.
Another concern the District of Squamish is bringing forward is trains idling in town.
“We have 20-plus rail crossings in Squamish and there are certain places trains are idling,” said Heintzman.
“They have a business to run and idling is allowed, but it is my understanding that engines can be more easily turned off now.”
She would like the federal government to modernize the Railway Safety Act and other legislation to address “excessive locomotive idling.”
Diesel locomotive engines, the recommendation states, emit a variety of pollutants, particulates and greenhouse gases that negatively impact communities.
“Idling affects the quality of life of people who live close to the railway,” Heintzman added.
“We need to figure out how to [let rail operations continue] while also protecting our quality of life.”