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Kootenay Columbia MP pushing Train Service Research Project along tracks

Kootenay Columbia MP Rob Morrison said the project would be a welcomed step forward for Kootenay-Columbians as we work together in the effort to reach a net-zero future.

The idea, that was originally spearheaded by the Castlegar & District Economic Development to move people through the region using the Kootenay Valley Railway tracks, was updated in a report in 2020.

Now, Kootenay Columbia MP Rob Morrison is eager to use his lobbying skills to assist in doing what he can to power the proposed “local inter-town rail travel” a little farther down the track.

“The proposed passenger rail service is a unique opportunity to introduce electric-powered passenger rail travel to our area,” Morrison told The Nelson Daily when asked about the project.

“This would be a welcomed step forward for Kootenay-Columbians as we work together in the effort to reach a net-zero future.”

The East/West Kootenay Train Service Research Project report was put to paper in March 2020 report.

Led by the Castlegar & District Economic Development, the project was supported in partnership by the Castlegar & District Chamber of Commerce, Destination Castlegar with funding from BC Rural Dividend Fund.

The feasibility study explored rail travel on the Kootenay Valley Railway lines from Canal Flats to Yahk, to Creston around Kootenay Lake to Nelson, Castlegar and Warfield as well as the economic opportunities for developing rail tours in the East and West Kootenay.

A factor that led to the new study — a similar review and business plan looking into passenger rail excursion was completed in 1998 — was the cancellation of Greyhound Bus service and folding the Queen City Charters in Nelson.

The lack of affordable transportation within the region has pushed the need to find an alternative to assist in inter-community travel for shopping, work, education and medical appointments.

Another component was the growth in tourism and interest in rail tourism in BC.

“In addition to reducing fuel consumption and creating opportunities for carbon offsets, the rail service would promote a cleaner environment, create new jobs and enhance our local tourism sector,” Morrison explained.

“I wholeheartedly support this initiative and have submitted a letter to Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, with a request for the Federal government to fund the next stage of this project,” Morrison added.

“I eagerly await her response.”

The report revealed a strong support and enthusiasm for the idea of some sort of passenger rail service in the Kootenays.

However, most people responding to the survey acknowledged there would be significant financial, operational, and logistical challenges facing such an undertaking.

“Big ideas take time, but are always worth the wait,” said Morrison.

“I look forward to the day when I can hop on a train in Creston and make my way to Nelson or Cranbrook.”

“(And) I’d like to thank the Kootenay Rail Service Society for their hard work on this initiative.”