Although there have been no recent major delays to West Coast Express service, TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond says the future of the passenger train needs to be worked out.
Freight trains that run on the same CP Rail line have repeatedly thrown the commuter rail service’s schedule into disarray, prompting escalating complaints from TransLink and area mayors.
“Good update on the West Coast Express – nothing’s happening and that’s a good thing,” Desmond told a Mayors Council on Regional Transportation meeting Thursday. TransLink and CP Rail are in year two of a 10-year deal for the West Coast Express in that corridor.
Desmond said that he was disappointed that it took a strongly worded letter from the Mayors Council to federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau and CEO of CP Rail Hunter Harrison to get positive changes for the West Coast Express.
“As much as [TransLink] can try with executive vice presidents, presidents, government affairs people I think the final shoe to drop was the tough letter that the Mayors Council sent out,” said Desmond. The letter was sent out in early December after 69 trains were delayed between Oct. 1 and Dec. 8, 2016.
“Since that time I believe there’s only been one delay on the West Coast Express which was due to the railroad,” said Desmond. “I think we’re back to normal.”
However, Desmond said that capacity has likely been reached on rail and that congestion would be an ongoing issue.
“We probably have to dig in at some point with the railroad, mutually with other regional partners, about the future of West Coast Express in that corridor,” he said.
“Should other investments be considered to satisfy the needs of both moving people and moving freight? While service is back to normal today, I would expect that down the road we’re going to get more of these kinds of challenges.”