Entrepreneur drumming up support for ultra-light rail in CRD

Entrepreneur drumming up support for ultra-light rail in CRD
Courtesy the City of Coventry
The groups involved in launching light rail in Coventry, U.K. are hoping to get a similar project off the ground on the South Island.

A Vancouver company is trying their hand at getting support for a transportation alternative on the South Island. This time the pitch is for ultra-light rail.

It’s a noiseless, battery-operated, albeit experimental, rail car alternative, and it’s the most recent solution being pitched to ease the Colwood Crawl.

“The electric age has arrived. We feel that electric mobility is here to stay,” said Stephen Kong with ThinkEco.

ThinkEco is linking up with U.K. company Penmark, who are train experts at the forefront of ultra-light rail in Coventry and are now setting their sights on Canada, more specifically municipalities on the West Shore.

“We’d like to see it properly tested along with Transportation Canada standards,” said Kong. “But on the marketing side, it’s been a long time since Victoria has seen a train, and it’s also going to be great to showcase the technology to the rest of North America.”

View Royal and Colwood councils are already on board, directing staff to work with neighbouring municipalities to identify a two to three kilometre stretch of municipally owned land where a mini track, acting as both a test site and showroom for the ultra-light rail concept, could be set up.

“I think with our push for growth we’re looking at building houses, but I don’t think we’ve looked at the associated infrastructure,” said View Royal Mayor Sid Tobias. “It would help tourism, help people not getting into their cars. So I think it’s a good place to embark on a bit of experimentation.”

The ultra-light system being pitched is battery-powered, sitting on prefabricated tracks which can be laid out on roads or trails and is compatible with pre-existing railway tracks. The trains can be charged in 10 minutes to run a distance of 70 kilometres at 90 kilometres an hour, are virtually noiseless, and can carry 50-200 people per train.

While the South Island E&N corridor is currently tied up in higher-level discussions with local First Nations, ThinkEco is looking at the Galloping Goose as its ideal test location.

And it wouldn’t cost municipalities a dime.

“This fits well into a zero-emissions mobility system that [Canada Infrastructure Bank] is looking to fund,” said Kong.

While funding hasn’t officially been secured, Kong says the Canada Infrastructure Bank has signaled their ultra-light rail plan, meets the federal funding criteria.

Up next, ThinkEco and Penmark is pitching Langford, as the CRD prepares to review View Royal and Colwood’s request to see if this cutting-edge electric rail technology can enter the North American market through Southern Vancouver Island.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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