When will Vancouver get a proper high-speed rail link that connects us to the rest of the West Coast?

Vancouver remains badly connected by rail to the booming northwest of the United States.  While Vancouver and Seattle are no London and Paris, they do share a regional population of around 5 million, hundreds of thousands of tourists, and some of the world’s largest companies are headquartered around Seattle.

Photo by Renaud CHODKOWSKI via Flickr

Arriving at London’s recently renovated King’s Cross railway station, one is struck by the beauty of this 19th century technology that has been brought into the 21st century in style. Vaulted ceilings and a grand domed roof evocative of Buckminster Fuller (think Bloedel Conservatory), create a truly memorable space. Both visitors to the city and residents benefit from government efforts to renovate its rail and subway stations to compete with their rivals on the continent and beyond. As result of what appears to be a renaissance in rail travel, alighting from a fast, clean train in London, Paris, and Frankfurt, is a delight. Arriving on time, ahead of traffic, is a bonus.

The Eurostar, a multi-year joint European project that connects London and Paris now transports 10 million passengers a year, and is an important economic contributor to both cities.

Back on the Pacific coast, Vancouver remains badly connected by rail to the booming northwest of the United States.  While Vancouver and Seattle are no London and Paris, they do share a regional population of around 5 million, hundreds of thousands of tourists, and some of the world’s largest companies are headquartered around Seattle. Why wouldn’t a great train service be in both cities’ best interests?  What would it take to have fast, reliable, world-class rail service from Vancouver down the west coast? Is it too much to ask?

A casual observer of the lack of passenger rail infrastructure can only ask themselves: when is China going to lend a helping hand to finance and build a proper high-speed rail link down the west coast? Who wouldn’t want to zip down to Seattle or Portland for the day? Or dream about making it down to San Francisco by train? The trip from Vancouver to San Francisco would be an easy, a modest 1,500km (since 2012, there has been high-speed train service from Beijing to Guangzhou, a distance of 2,300km, which now takes 8 hours.)

 While Elon Musk chases the future with his Hyperloop trains, Vancouver can stay modest and push the powers that be to bring the functionality of the rail system up to date. Better passenger rail service within the province and beyond would generate great business, technology and cultural opportunities, and other productive collaboration that would be facilitated by rapid, traffic-jam free transit between major west coast cities? Better passenger rail connecting major cities would seem the idea way to connect capital, brains and innovation required in our modern world. If Chinese banks are happy to finance their own municipal subways to nowhere, surely they would consider financing and building a west coast express worthy of the name?

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