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Richmond considers merits of inland port

Richmond considers merits of inland port

Originally published in the Richmond Review

Shipping more containers to an inland port in B.C. could ease development pressure on Richmond farmland, city council heard Monday.

Civic politicians invited representatives from Ashcroft Terminal to Richmond City Hall to pitch the merits of the inland port nearly 350 kilometres away. Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said it’s in Richmond’s interest to encourage Ashcroft’s development to stem Port Metro Vancouver expansion.

“We see what’s happening with the port as ultimately encroaching on agricultural land, their insatiable appetite for more industrial land,” said Brodie, adding a new $2-billion bridge is also planned in part to handle truck traffic growth.

The privately-owned Ashcroft Terminal started operations in 2001 and boasts connections to major railways and highways. Every train originating from a Port Metro facility passes through Ashcroft, which will begin container handling operations in May.

“We don’t see any shortage of demand. It’s about the infrastructure and the operations, all of it coming together,” said Kleo Landucci, Ashcroft Terminal’s vice-president of projects and development.

Landucci said inland terminals like Ashcroft are successful across the globe.

“This is not new. It’s new to B.C. It’s new to Western Canada.”

Delta council has long backed the idea of inland terminals to reduce truck traffic and pressure to develop farmland near port property. In 2008 it formally endorsed a motion to support the continued development of Ashcroft Terminal, and last year commissioned a study that found “significant” traffic, economic, social and environmental benefits of an inland port for the Metro Vancouver region.

In Richmond, elected officials fear Port Metro Vancouver will eventually expand its container operations on neighbouring farmland.

Said Coun. Harold Steves: “We’re faced with the real problem of losing the ability to feed ourselves because the port wants to do everything here.”

It’s not clear how Richmond council would support Ashcroft’s expansion goals. Councillors referred the matter to staff for analysis.

Port Metro Vancouver spokesperson John Parker-Jervis said an inland port has the potential to alleviate some pressure on local land, but “certainly wouldn’t diminish our concerns about industrial land in our region and the lack of availability as we look forward.”

Parker-Jervis said about 70 per cent of containers arriving at Deltaport depart on rail and another five per cent are destined for the local market. The remaining 25 per cent are moved by truck for value-added activity—to a local warehouse to sort product destined by rail for a Saskatchewan retailer, for example—which presents an opportunity for Ashcroft. The challenge for Ashcroft is to win support from the supply chain and industry, he noted.

“We’re seeing continual increases in container traffic through our gateway, and projections are showing that’s going to continue. If a project came online that could increase that capacity, we’d be quite happy to see that,” said Parker-Jervis.