LETTER: Some historical perspective on rail relocation

The Editor,

In your Thursday, Oct. 9 edition, a letter by Colin Fletcher caught my attention ("Rail relocation: Stop the talk, just do it," Now letters).

What he says as an objective is ideal, but not at all practical. The moving costs alone of relocation would probably be in the excess of $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion. Then, factoring in the additional operating costs, even over a long period of 50 years, would be at least an equal amount.

The shareholders of BNSF would not entertain such a cost. The current operators of the this existing rightof-way now pay an annual levy that is substantial to the local government coffers.

Let’s be practical. Too many have bought into the idea that government can afford to do

anything. Thus the cry for government to provide good, quality housing for the disadvantaged and others, mothers wish a larger indemnity for raising children, workers want more paid holidays, and so the list goes on – better transportation, smaller classroom complements, instant emergency response to any request for assistance. Governments only have the money the taxpayer provides. Currently, western British Columbia is already a very expensive place to live.

Some 45 years ago, while engaged as the industrial development officer for the then-Municipality of Surrey, I had contact with the BNSF regarding possibly relocating the existing line to a location where it could tie into the thenproposed track west from Fort Langley to Roberts Bank super port. I attended their offices in St. Paul, Minnesota, and I learned the realities of rerouting. The purchase of a right-of-way alone would be quite large. The original line along the west coast was relocated because the grade north to Cloverdale, and then to Port Kells, was simply too difficult to be practical. The waterfront route made much better sense.

At the time I met with BNSF officials, the corporation had no reason to undertake such a task and would only consider it if someone else paid for it entirely, and possibly provided a financial inducement on a continuing basis.

Naturally, no government at any level was prepared to pay any amount of money, alone or in concert with another body.

Maybe it is time to provide for stiffer fines for persons who do trespass on these tracks. That might induce at least some from becoming a right-of-way statistic.

David G. Sparks

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