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Esquimalt residents sound alarm over noise from inter-city rail

Train Whistle Petition 3
Francine Khan

If inter-city rail chugs through Francine Khan's backyard, the train's whistle will not only "blast her from bed," but sound out throughout the morning and afternoon.

That, says the Esquimalt resident, will wreak havoc on her quality of life and lower her property value. Additional train trips, she warns, will also pose a hazard for pedestrians and motorists at crossings, such as the one at Maple Bank Road near her home, where there are no automatic barriers.

"This is ridiculous," fumed Khan, whose backyard is six metres from the tracks and about 200 metres from the Maple Bank Road crossing. "It is a half-baked idea.

"There's so many holes in this idea (but) no answers."

The Island Corridor Foundation's plan, though tentative at the moment, is to establish four additional Via runs between Victoria West and Langford each morning and afternoon.

Enhancing passenger service is critical, otherwise rail in Greater Victoria may die even if the rail line can be saved, according to Esquimalt's mayor.

"One run a day is not significant enough," said Barb Desjardins. "The rail, should it no longer exist, then there's a significant change in terms of that land."

The Douglas Treaty, for example, stipulates "the rail service must continue for the right-of-way to be continued," Desjardins said.

Without rail, that land would revert back "to whoever it has taken the right-of-way away from," the mayor said, adding those owners may include various municipalities and First Nations communities.

Khan's neighbour Ruth Nelson says the impact the inter-city service would have on property owners must be considered. She believes it will prevent her from selling her house one day, as she has hoped.

"It will mean a total loss of my home," she said. "I'm going to lose an arm and a leg wherever I go. I will fight it."

Homeowners have to remember the railway was there first, said Graham Bruce, executive director of the Island Corridor Foundation, which owns the Esquimalt and Nanaimo rail line between Victoria and Courtenay.

"You live by a railroad and the railroad has been there 125 years," he noted. "I don't want that to sound like we're (saying), 'Oh, to heck with everybody. We're not.'"

Safety remains paramount and noise will be minimized where possible, Bruce said. Mitigating those factors will be fleshed out as the business case progresses.

But Khan questions the value of the service for Esquimalt residents.

"Who in Esquimalt is going to ride this train?" she argued.

"Everyone who lives along the line will pay the price. Maybe some people may benefit from it, but we won't."