Agreed, but how much flexibility and capacity does a once-daily 2-car RDC train provide, which departs Victoria in the morning and returns from Courtenay in the afternoon? As for the cost of restoring only Victoria to Duncan, you just have to add the two first numbers in the respective column of the table I posted above, so $62, $109 or $150 million, depending on quality of tracks and service you desire.
In any case, it seems to me that fixing whatever is wrong with the Highway can be done quicker, at less cost and achieve much higher benefits...
I should've checked the numbers, thanks for that.
Good point re. the low cost option. Ideally we'd spend that bit extra. I did some quick Googling and found that the Malahat has been seeing upgrades recently - $34 million committed in 2016 and most of the work is complete or nearing completion. The problem is that the two main causes of accidents are only partially being addressed. Issue 1 is the winding nature of the road - the Malahat is a fairly old pass of the mountains north of the city and bends and curves significantly. The province is expanding the number of lanes and adding medians but not on every part of the highway. Between people not putting on winter tires (as they aren't need on the island outside of the pass and much further north), speeding and various other forms of distracted and dangerous driving, head-on collisions are bound to happen.
The second issue is that it's not a formal grade-separated highway. The Malahat has a number of homes and businesses scattered along it, with a concentration at one of the highest and more winding points. Quite a few accidents occur regularly when people try to enter the highway or turn around near the village of Malahat. The upgrades offer turn around points but people will continue making u-turns on the portions where median barriers haven't been erected.
To adequately address all these issues, BC would likely have to close or expropriate and demolish most of the homes and businesses along the highway - there's effectively no room to expand the ROW for the highway through the pass. Even where there is room, they need to dynamite and clear cut some pristine forest. Thus far the political will is there for small upgrades like this but I question if there's enough to properly upgrade the highway. Same with the megaproject alternative - building a bridge to bypass the Malahat completely and cross Saanich Inlet.
Also, doesn't the report suggest the initial phase could allow for 2-4 passenger trains a day? That would allow for a pair of daily trains, no? Like I definitely see your point that it wouldn't add a ton of flexibility but we're still talking $500-730m max (assuming they restore service on the Port Alberni corridor) and still significant increase in capacity to move people and, importantly, freight, should the Malahat be closed for a significant period of time.