The province won’t be doing any feasibility study on the possibility of a passenger train service between Lillooet and North Vancouver.
The provincial government has rejected a demand put forward by the small community of Lillooet to revive a passenger train service between Prince George and North Vancouver, with stops in Squamish, Whistler and Lillooet.
In a response to a UBCM resolution put forward by Lillooet last year, the province says the passenger rail is an environmentally friendly way to connect communities and the government does support the possibility where sufficient demand exists for the service to be economically sustainable.
“Given that previous market demand for passenger rail service in this corridor was marginal, and the costs to taxpayers to reinstate service in the form of subsidies would be substantial, the Provincial Government is not currently considering funding a feasibility study to reinstate rail along this corridor,” it says.
The province says this shouldn’t, however, dissuade local governments along the corridor to collectively approach VIA Rail or any other rail carrier with a request to undertake such a study.
Former Lillooet Mayor Marg Lampman spearheaded the campaign to get BC to talk to VIA Rail to do a feasibility study on connecting rural communities together with a train.
The loss of the passenger train service in 2002 was economically devastating to many communities in the BC Interior, she says, adding that personal cars and flights are costly alternatives for residents.
“Rural communities have been struggling to fill the void left by this decision. Our economies have suffered and our residents have incurred additional expenses travelling for medical/social – reasons,” she told the province last year.
Reviving the train would improve public safety, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance economic development opportunities throughout the former BC Rail corridor, she said.
Lillooet citizens launched a petition on change.org asking BC to find a way to revive the train service between Prince George and North Vancouver.
The petition garnered close to 4,000 signatures from those who believed the train would spur tourism, help local economies grow and relieve congestion on the Sea to Sky Highway.
“We believe that rail companies must contribute to the economic health of the communities their trains traverse. It’s time for CN Rail to do their part and be open to leasing the line to an interested rail company who will invest in the future,” the petition said.
The Cariboo Prospector or the BC Rail Bud Car was a passenger train service operated by PGE, later known as BC Rail. The train ran from the North Vancouver railway station to Lillooet, from where a section would continue down to Prince George.
It was discontinued in October of 2002, when the BC Rail line was leased over to CN Rail. Rocky Mountaineer now operates a luxury train line between North Vancouver and Jasper, with prices that range from $2,179 to $3,499.
The former Lillooet Mayor said the CN Rail on two occasions did offer to run a summer service but then backed out saying the location was inappropriate. However, that hadn’t stopped the private Rocky Mountaineer from going over those same tracks, she added.
“In direct contrast, Canadian National Railway hosts a privately owned Rocky Mountaineer tour train over the same tracks through St’at’imc and District of Lillooet territory. This train only serves the extreme high price market and does not offer service to our community.”