Man I wish Western Canada had trains…

Well I am off to Vancouver to visit a friend this weekend and of course will be flying.  I can deny that I am a bit unnerved by the recent “security alert” that was issued by Transport Canada on the weekend.  Not to say that terrorists would target a domestic Canadian flight but as a bit of jumpy flyer regardless, it does not add to my comfort level.  What it does do, however, is cause me to lament that Western Canada effectively has no passenger train system anymore.  Sure, there is the Via train that trundles along the CN tracks from Edmonton to Vancouver a few times a week, though I think it takes close to 24 hours to make that trip such that it is not a realistic option (and there is no connection beyond buses between Calgary and Edmonton).  What there should be is a regular train service between Calgary and Vancouver using a modern train that can handle the curving mountain tracks at fairly high speeds (for example of the sort used in Switzerland that can travel well over 100 kmh on regular tracks through mountains).  Granted such a service would still take about 10 hours to make the journey but it would be realistic for a long weekend, given that you could sleep or do work along the way (I’m told these things are possible on planes but it has not been my experience given the stress filled nightmare that is modern air travel). 

Many would scoff at the amount of time required and say they prefer to fly – fine I say; my point is that there should be a choice in the year 2010.  I would also question the speed argument given that you have to get to airport up to 3 hours before departure now, and there is a good chance the flight will be delayed or cancelled.

For me, this is but one example of how governments at all levels in Canada have been complicit in the “privatization” of transportation – roughly since the 1980s your choices for inter-city travel have been the private car, airline or coach service (and it is interesting to watch Greyhound announce regularly the shutting down on rural bus services).  So much of this policy making, if it was such, has been premised on the continuation of the status quo – cheap oil, big highway budgets and a population that has forgotten when there were other, more civilized alternatives.  Restoring decent rail service across the country will not be easy or cheap for many reasons (including opposition from private rail companies), but there are many reasons governments need to get behind this initiative – civility of travel being just one.  Others such as rising energy prices, global warming concerns and the terror threat are big drivers that can’t be ignored.


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