Feds match B.C. for $15 million in rail funding

Ottawa announced this week they will pony up $7.5 million - matching a B.C. commitment - for Vancouver Island rail upgrades.

VIA Rail passenger service could be running on the Island again as early as 2013.

VIA Rail passenger service could be running on the Island again as early as 2013.

They might have to be working on the railroad all the live-long day to do it, but officials with Southern Rail and the Island Corridor Foundation are determined to have passenger trains rolling again on Vancouver Island within a year.

The pledge came in light of $7.5 million in federal funding announced Tuesday to match a provincial commitment to upgrade the tracks to the point where passenger bud cars can once again roll between Victoria and Courtenay.

Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney said the money will help ensure that rail service continues on Vancouver Island into the future.

“Without it, the rail was going to fold,” he said. “The trains would never come back.”

That optimism was shared by Parksville-Qualicum  MLA Ron Cantelon.

“This is $7.5 million worth of good news,” Cantelon said. “We are going to see passenger rail service back on Vancouver Island — and they’ve started doing some of the work already. They’ve been replacing ties. They’ve spent over $4 million already.”

The resumption of service, he added, is important to Vancouver Island, because the communities have historically been tied together by rail.

“This maintains the dream for many of rail connections,” he said. “We are tied together by rail on the coast. It’s unique.”

With Island highways increasingly congested, he said the rail service will provide residents with a viable, comfortable alternative.

Read the full story in Friday’s print edition of The News.