One of the world’s largest electric-vehicle producers is pushing the provincial government to consider all alternatives before making a decision on the future of the E&N railway corridor.
China-based BYD, which makes electric buses and other vehicles, has for years advocated an electric bus rapid-transit route along the 15-kilometre stretch of railway between Victoria and Langford.
Ted Dowling, vice-president of BYD Canada, said he’s just asking the province to consider all its options. “We’re saying you have to look at something else — you can’t announce rail without looking at other options,” he said. “We’re just reminding them there are options.”
Passenger service was shut down in 2011 over worries about the condition of the tracks.
BYD’s proposal, being sent to the province and Lower Island municipalities, comes in response to an assessment of the condition of the rail line conducted by WSP Canada. The assessment was commissioned by the provincial government, which is preparing a transportation strategy for the Island.
The WSP report, which looked at the entire 225-kilometre rail corridor between Victoria and Courtenay, pegged the cost of resurrecting passenger and freight service at between $326 million and $729 million, plus $595 million for commuter-rail service between Victoria and Langford.
The Island Corridor Foundation, which owns the corridor and wants the return of rail service, has estimated a hybrid system would cost just $300 million.
Dowling’s proposal suggests using electric buses on a guided system that would use the existing right of way, bridges and overpasses, and would be available for use by emergency vehicles. He argues it would be significantly cheaper and cleaner than resurrecting diesel rail service and could accommodate bike and walking trails on the same route.
“It’s not just about BYD — it’s about making this an electric corridor for zero-emission vehicles moving people [and goods].”
He hopes any electric-bus project would use his company to manufacture the vehicles. Dowling is pushing for the Transportation Ministry to undertake a feasibility study of an electric-bus route between Victoria and Langford.