Does the B.C. NDP government support the restoration of Island railway services? That’s the question Southern Rail of Vancouver Island (SVI) and the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) want to know.
After meeting with Claire Trevena, B.C.Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure on Nov. 9, where they presented the Island Rail Service and Infrastructure Plan, the ICF said it still has no indication whether the new provincial government would support it.
In an email to The NEWS, the ministry’s communications director, Ryan Jabs, said Trevena was pleased to meet with the ICF in what was largely an introductory meeting. But he provided no indication whether the B.C. government will endorse the plan.
Jabs said the provincial government understands the importance of the E&N rail corridor to residents of Vancouver Island and will continue to meet with various parties about possibilities for the line.
“The B.C. government is committed to continue working with local communities to explore transportation options for the Island,” said Jabs.
The Train Service and Infrastructure Plan aims to establish a rail service between Nanaimo and Victoria and provide inter-city VIA Passenger Rail; a tourist excursion train between the Nanaimo cruise ship terminal and Chemainus; and expansion of the currently operating rail freight.
It would also provide infrastructure support for a trial rail diesel car (RDC) commuter service between Victoria and Langford that the Capital Regional District could operate.
The basic elements of the $42.7 million track upgrades call for 120,000 ties to be replaced; 70,000 tonnes of ballast; bridge upgrades; siding rehabilitation; safety sight and sound barriers through several First Nation communities; crossing safety improvements and a trail walkway across the Chemainus River bridge.
SVI project manager Don McGregor said this is a substantive rebuild that would provide for train service well into the future. He said that the four train services — inter-city, tourist excursion, freight and commuter — could easily be handled on the improved track. By strategically placing sidings, he added, there would be no need for twinning the tracks.
The new federal infrastructure program requires provincial approval and funding for federal participation.
Phil Kent, ICF co-chair and Mayor of Duncan, said SVI and the ICF have developed a good plan that could provide significant transportation services for the Island.
“We hope the new government will help make this happen,” he added.
The passenger train service and freight service between Duncan and Parksville ceased operations in 2011 due to track safety concerns. It has been idle since that time as the ICF has been waiting for funding from the federal and provincial governments, which have committed $7.5 million each to help fix the railway line.
Planning for connecting rail service north of Nanaimo is on hold until a resolution is found with the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation at Nanoose Bay.
— With files from ICF