ICF still waiting for funding to re-start passenger rail service on Vancouver Island

Local politicians still skeptical service will ever resume to Parskville Qualicum Beach

Julian Fell says he has been blacklisted by the Island Corridor Foundation.

Fell is the Regional District of Nanaimo’s representative to the ICF’s board of directors. In a close vote, the RDN decided in August to give the ICF almost $1 million to help the effort to revive passenger rail service on the Island. Fell, along with directors representing Bowser, Nanoose Bay, Qualicum Beach and Parksville, voted against the funding request, but the motion passed on the strength of the RDN board’s Nanaimo contingent.

“The ICF board met in October and they didn’t invite me,” Fell, who represents Errington/Coombs said this week. “I appear to be on their black list.” Fell was asked what he knew about the ICF’s progress toward restoring passenger rail service on the Island, which was halted in 2011 due to safety concerns.

“You’ll have to ask them (the ICF),” said Fell. “They don’t return calls — mine or anyone else’s.”

ICF CEO Graham Bruce returned a call from The NEWS within 15 minutes on Tuesday. Bruce said former RDN and Nanaimo city councillor Ted Greves resigned from the ICF board in July and the ICF board had not approved Fell as a member by the October meeting. “There’s a process that needs to be followed and that’s what (the ICF board) is doing,” said Bruce.

The ICF has been seeking funding from both the provincial and federal governments after regional districts up and down the Island agreed to kick in a total of about $7 million. Matching funds from Victoria and Ottawa were supposed to give the ICF more than $20 million, money Bruce said would be enough to get the track operational.

Bruce said the information that’s now in the hands of senior government officials from the ICF requesting funds is “very, very thorough. They are doing their review.”

Parksville Mayor Marc Lefebvre has consistently said he doesn’t think that amount of money will be enough to do the required repairs.

“I don’t believe for $20 million you are going to get a passenger rail service up and running from Victoria to Courtenay,” Lefebvre said this week. “This is a dog that’s not going to hunt.”

As a city councillor, Lefebvre was Parksville’s rep on the RDN board for three years and he will continue in that role as mayor.

He said, like Fell, he would like some answers from the ICF.

“What we can’t get is an activity report from anybody at the ICF . . . about what work they have been doing since 2011,” said Lefebvre.

Bruce said the ICF would use the $20 million to replace 104,000 railway ties from Victoria to Courtenay. He said that work would take nine-12 months and start in Victoria, working its way north.

Bruce said the schedule would see twice-daily service service from Nanaimo to Victoria and return service from Qualicum Beach to Victoria (stopping in Parksville) on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.