CP Rail has begun clearing brush on its Arbutus Corridor railway line on the west side of Vancouver, warning residents it may reactivate the overgrown line, but the activity may have more to do with a fight with the city than any plans to move cargo.
In a letter to residents, CP Rail informed residents of the brush-clearing work, and said upcoming survey work may be followed by trains running once again along the 11 km rail line that runs from False Creek to the Fraser River.
The company admits a dispute with the city over the railway's right to develop the land is behind the efforts to reactivate the line, which has not been used in about a decade and half.
It recent years the inactive right of way has become a popular dog walking spot, but the railway has been trying to get plans for a property development approved.
'The company must look at optimizing the use of this corridor.This includes running trains.' - CP Rail letter to residents
"For many years now, CP has been involved in conversations to convert the Arbutus Corridor for a number of combined public uses such as greenway, public transportation, community gardens and Eco Density development," says the letter titled 'Notice to residents: Train activity in your community.'
"Despite our efforts, the company and other parties have been unable to achieve a plan for the disposition of this valuable asset. As a result, the company must look at optimizing the use of this corridor. This includes running trains."
However, in an interview with CBC News, CP Rail spokesperson Ed Greenberg says the brush clearing doesn't necessarily mean CP is actually intending to run trains down the track.
"The Arbutus Corridor has always remained an active rail line which requires the tracks to meet specific safety requirements we have to look at every year, and the brush clearing and survey work are part of that process in ensuring the tracks meet CTA [Canadian Transportation Act] requirements," he said when asked about the company's plans.
City of Vancouver is opposed
In a 2006 Supreme Court of Canada decision, the city won the right to have the final say on development along the Arbutus Corridor. The court rejected a CP plan to develop the corridor for commercial and residential use.
However, the mayor concedes the railway still has the legal right to run trains down an active rail corridor.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson says the city doesn't support any plans to reactivate the line, and still wants to see it turned into a greenway.
“We have expressed this clearly to CP. The corridor is a unique, green route running from False Creek to the Fraser River, crossing several residential neighbourhoods, and our vision for it is to maintain it as greenway for residents of Vancouver until there’s a viable case for rail transit use," the mayor said in an emailed statement to CBC News.
“I support the Arbutus Corridor as a community greenway and future transit corridor, and ask CP to respect the neighbourhood's wishes and the Arbutus Corridor Official Development Plan.”