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High-speed trains are a great way to beat those border blues

(The Vancouver Province posted the following article on its website on August 28.)

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Anyone who has driven from Greater Vancouver to the U.S. this summer via the Peace Arch border crossing is well aware of the frustratingly long customs and immigration lineups.

And it's just as bad for returning Canadians and visiting Americans coming the other way.

Unfortunately, due to higher security precautions now being taken by both Canadian and U.S. customs officials, these border-crossing delays are only going to worsen for the travelling public.

In fact, the delays have reached a point where they're now impacting tourism on both sides of the border.

Faced with the prospect of waits sometimes as long as two or three hours, many tourists simply stay home.

With the 2010 Winter Olympics quickly approaching, it's time for British Columbians to start thinking of creative ways to help alleviate this problem.

We think one of the possible solutions that appears to have been overlooked is to upgrade the passenger train service between downtown Vancouver and downtown Seattle.

A high-speed passenger train service between these two cities -- both rated as the most liveable in their respective countries -- would give the public a cheaper, more comfortable and more efficient means of travel, whether on business or for pleasure.

It would also help reduce the traffic congestion at the Peace Arch and other Lower Mainland border crossings.

As it stands now, there's only one Amtrak train running daily between the two cities. And, partly due to railway-track conditions and rail-freight traffic, the trip takes about four hours.

Nor is it possible to get down to Seattle and back during the same day, since the Amtrak Cascades train doesn't leave Vancouver until 6 p.m. -- which means a traveller must stay overnight in Seattle.

However, with the proper track upgrades in B.C., the 175-kilometre, one-way trip could be reduced to two hours or less.

As anyone who has taken trains in Europe knows, a fast, efficient rail service is often the best way of getting from city to city.

And in European countries such as Germany, the rail system is competing with the world's most efficient freeway system, namely the Autobahn.

Our gasoline prices are now approaching European levels.

So it only makes sense to start looking at how we can incorporate European-style train travel here on the West Coast.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

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