The Island Corridor Foundation says it is time VIA Rail “engaged responsibly” in negotiating a new train service agreement.
In a news release distributed Wednesday afternoon, ICF CEO Graham Bruce said a comprehensive proposal was presented after VIA suggested they may consider an alternate plan whereby Southern Rail, the ICF rail operator, would take over the operation of the reinstated service. VIA has not replied to the April proposal, said Bruce, who said this is “unacceptable.”
“Our operator entered into these discussions in good faith and have spent time and money to develop a train service that contemplated an increase in ridership, reduced VIA’s involvement and limited the subsidy. For VIA to not bother to respond is very poor business practise and a slap to Islanders”.
VIA Rail Canada is a federal crown corporation mandated to provide rail passenger service throughout the country. “VIA Rail wants to maintain the past service agreement while our operator is intent on providing an improved service and schedule”, said Bruce. The past service was a return, daily train from Victoria to Courtenay.
The improved service calls for an early morning train from Nanaimo to Victoria and then the Victoria-Courtenay return schedule with a late afternoon run from Victoria back to Nanaimo.
The ICF has met with B.C. Trans[ortation Minister Todd Stone and asked him to speak with federal minister Lisa Raitt. Bruce said Nanaimo MP James Lunney has been very supportive and is carrying the message to Ottawa.
The ICF said it wants and agreement in place by the end of August to facilitate a November construction start for rebuilding the track and trestles. Bruce said Rail infrastructure funding of $20 million and the continuation of rail service on the Island could all be lost without VIA’s participation. —NEWS Staff