To help rural and bigger communities alike, people are urging for the passenger rail service along the Canadian National Railway to return back on its tracks.
With the British Columbia provincial election coming up in May, efforts are being pushed with even more passion for the once beloved passenger rail that ran from North Vancouver to Prince George to return. Both a petition on change.org and a Facebook page exists for this move that was initiated by the mayor of Lillooet, Marg Lampman.
The service was canceled back in 2002 after the BC Rail was leased to the CN Rail.
The province has past claimed the passenger rail wouldn’t be economically feasible, but those pushing the return see it differently, believing it would contribute to the economy, along with many other benefits.
Lampman first decided to get involved and to start a petition when she was contacted by someone with Teamsters Canada, a union representing railway workers.
Today, the petition has around 1,550 signatures and the Facebook page has around 350 likes.
“It was a huge hit to our community. People continually talk about the loss of the passenger rail service for rural communities,” said Lampman.
Lillooet, in particular, has no greyhound or bus service, so residents are forced to drive everywhere or hire someone if they need to get towards the Lower Mainland. For those in these small communities, the rail was especially helpful for medical purposes, but also social purposes.
“It’s really missed here. People could get on the train here and head down into the Lower Mainland and do their medical appointment, visit with their family or take in a hockey game then come back the next day. It was just great for them,” said Lampman.
For the reasoning for its cancellation back in 2002, Lampman believes it’s different today, and the situation back then is all old history.
With the rail being able to serve many sights of scenic views, such as the stretch from North Vancouver up to Whistler to the Caribou ranch lands, it’s believed benefits would be high for tourists, as well as helping the economy and the environment.
“We have to move forward and look at transportation for British Columbia and the effect that more vehicles on the road create as far as pollutants into the air,” said Lampman. “It’s the way of the future.”
In going forward towards the May election, Lampman has gotten support from tourism associations, First Nations and numerous mayors, including the North Vancouver mayor. She also has met with Todd Stone, minister of transportation and infrastructure, who said that if a private, passenger rail company were to take the project on, he would be willing to help make it possible.
Lampman believes we are in a new era of awareness of carbon emissions, air quality, and travel. Keeping the rail line on the fore front for the sake of jobs, economy, health and the environment is key for the upcoming election.
Shellie Troy, also from Lillooet, runs the petition and the social media platforms for the effort and got involved because of her belief of the need for the train.
“It’s very frustrating to see the provincial and federal governments doling out many millions for various public transportation projects and overlooking our region,” said Troy. “Recently, we got a commitment to stabilize an especially bad stretch of highway that keeps wanting to slide off the mountain but that feels like a token gesture in an election year. We really need the train.”
The hope moving on is that the passenger line stays an election issue and that the CN Rail will eventually be willing to lease to a passenger rail company that wants to make the efforts a reality.
“I believe in the will of the people. Where there’s enough clamor for something, the government and other power brokers pay attention,” said Troy.
The effort to get the passenger rail back on track may be a long process, but it’s an effort that’s far from giving up.
“We are a vast province. The best way to see it and travel around is by the passenger rail service,” said Lampman.