Keeping the faith

Island Corridor Foundation CEO still believes there can be passenger rail service on the Island by May 2014

Graham Bruce remains undeterred.

The CEO of the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) says he is not phased by comments from some who are questioning everything about the possible re-start of passenger rail service from Victoria to Courtenay.

“It’s taken way longer than what I had hoped for —  I have developed a greater level of patience,” Bruce said last week. “My confidence level is still there.”

Bruce said discussions continue involving the ICF, VIA Rail and Southern Rail. He said the best-case scenario sees Parksville Qualicum Beach people once again boarding a train in their communities in May of 2014.

On July 8, Qualicum Beach town council put its skepticism to a vote, calling on the Regional District of Nanaimo to explore uses for the corridor other than rail.

“They can pass whatever motions they like,” Bruce said in response.

“This is nothing new for the town of Qualicum. We’re focussed on completing what was started. There are those who believe there’s an opportunity for rail on Vancouver Island and there are those who don’t. Those who wish to chirp away, carry on.”

Bruce admits to the process of working through the details on passenger rail service with both VIA and Southern being “somewhat frustrating.”

He points to the rebuilt Nanaimo station (“one of the nicest heritage buildings on Vancouver Island”) as evidence the ICF has a “track record of success.”

Bruce also responded to Qualicum Beach Coun. Dave Willie’s comments that ICF’s financial reporting has been less than stellar. Willie said last week the ICF is “months and months behind.”

“We are not months and months behind,” said Bruce, adding that a financial audit of the ICF was presented to the ICF board in April.

The ICF has secured more than $21 million in funding for the restoration of the rails and bridges of the corridor (split evenly from three sources, the provincial government, the federal government and the regional districts of the Island), but Bruce admits the longer discussions and negotiations between the ICF, VIA and Southern Rail take, the more money it will take to get the line up to acceptable safety standards.

“The longer it takes the more deterioration of the line occurs and costs increase,” he said.