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Ross Crockford

By Ross Crockford, October 2013

Backroom debates intensify.

Despite an August 31 deadline announced by Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) executive director Graham Bruce, negotiations are continuing between Southern Rail of Vancouver Island (SVI) and VIA Rail to craft a new passenger-rail agreement for the Island. 

“We are coming closer and closer together,” says SVI president Frank Butzelaar. “We are confident we will reach a deal.” 

In April, SVI submitted a proposal to have VIA’s trains based in Nanaimo instead of in Victoria, as they were before VIA stopped service in 2011 due to poor track conditions. VIA has said it prefers the original arrangement, under which it paid an average annual subsidy of $1.4 million. The SVI proposal would require an annual subsidy of $1.8 million, plus $6 million over five years for track maintenance.

By Ross Crockford, September 2013

The fight to save the E&N Railway enters the final round.

It’s a sunny Saturday morning, and the Malahat is jammed. The safety improvements are done, but it still takes 90 minutes to drive from downtown Victoria to Crofton. The highway is full of Islanders hauling groceries and building supplies, and I get stuck at practically every traffic light enroute. Judging by the growing numbers of mini-malls along the road, by 2030 the same drive will probably take twice as long.

By Ross Crockford, January 2012

What happened to the plans for commuter rail?

For a few hours in 2008 and 2009, residents got an idea of what it would be like to take a commuter train between Langford and Victoria. 

One Saturday in August, in both those years, Jim Sturgill ran a 70-passenger VIA Rail “Budd” car back and forth between Goldstream Avenue and the old CPR roundhouse in Vic West, as part of E&N Days, a summer celebration of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway. “It worked very well,” says Sturgill, a veteran trainman who operated locomotives on the E&N for 30 years. During 2008’s one-day test, he made six round trips, taking about 25 minutes each way—a challenge for any car driver trying to reach the same destination by navigating the stop-and-go traffic on Douglas Street or Craigflower Road. 

By Ross Crockford, September 2011

Can a hallucinogenic tea help people overcome addictions?

This medicine changed my life,” says Gabrielle. “It changed the way I experience life, every single day, for the better.”

A slim, enthusiastic woman, Gabrielle tells me in her Cedar Hill apartment that she’s been living with chronic pain since 1993. For years she managed the pain with exercise, and focused on her job as a municipal administrative assistant. But in 2008, the pain got so bad that she could barely get out of bed. She tried conventional therapy without success, took disability leave, and became dependent on prescription morphine.