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LETTER: This isn’t the end of the line for Port Alberni’s historic train station

New technology and ingenuity can get a train moving on Island tracks again
The Port Alberni Train Station is located outside the entrance to Harbour Quay, on Harbour Road in Port Alberni. (AV NEWS FILE PHOTO)

To the Editor,

The City of Port Alberni possesses a historical, beautifully designed heritage train station. It is a gem that needs some polishing moving forward.

This unique building reflects on the early history of Port Alberni and is now more important in the 21st century to look back on this rich history and the vision the train station carries forward. We must ensure the train station remains a heritage building.

I believe trains can once again travel on the Island Rail corridor for both passenger and freight. Trains can once again travel to Victoria. Getting Island Rail moving again will take a bit of work and leadership and new ways of thinking.

Given the advances in train technology and the need to ensure low carbon emissions, the train station can serve as a focal point to this exciting new way to do things. Island Rail can develop this service with 100 percent green technology. The train station anchors the train to Port Alberni. The station, which is a real asset to the city, is both symbolic and a real anchor for future development.

While the old Via Rail train that used to take passengers from Courtenay to Victoria is gone everything is in place to create a state-of-the-art rail service on Vancouver Island. We can build on existing infrastructure, embracing new technology. People have issues with transportation. The issues of carbon neutral transportation affect all residents. What was farsighted in 1912 is equally farsighted in 2022.

One possible solution is a passenger “virtual track” train, similar to one that has been tested in China, that could makeuse of the existing infrastructure. The virtual track train uses the existing rail bed. The train station could serve as part of this virtual train system and include a ticket office and needed covered passenger area.

The outlying section of the train station including the patio and the garage area could serve as a mixed-use for a microbrewery or cafe. This could include removable coverings. The unique water tower formerly used for steam trains could be developed into a funky lookout and seating area.

The remainder of the train station can be mixed use. For example, some of the interior space could be used for offices for private sector or public interest groups. If the ground was fully used, the station’s top floor could be offices.

The train station could serve as a cornerstone for redevelopment of Port Alberni’s unique waterfront, which has great potential. Its final use needs to be carefully considered in light of a broader plan for Port Alberni’s future.

The Port Alberni Train Station is not at the end of the line, it is at the beginning of a new journey.

Monica Ahlroos,

Port Alberni