Alberni left out from federal rail cash injection

Port Alberni was left out of the $7 million improvements to be made on E&N rail between Victoria and Courtenay but spinoff work is possible.

Railroads in Alberni

Railroads in Alberni

The train will soon be leaving the station with the restoration of the Vancouver Island Railway between Victoria and Courtenay.

The federal government has ponied up $7.5 million for work on the railway. The funds match a $7.5 million contribution made by the province in 2011.

“The restoration of the Vancouver Island Railway will create local jobs and economic growth, re-establish important passenger rail service for Island residents, and offer another route for visitors to this beautiful region,” said John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and MP for Vancouver Island North.

Dayliner service between Victoria and Courtenay was suspended last year due to poor track conditions.

The announcement means that the railway won’t be mothballed as feared, former Port Alberni mayor and Island Corridor Foundation representative Ken McRae said. “It’s the saviour of the rail line,” he said. “Without that it would have ended up as one big trail.”

The ICF is a regional, municipal and First Nations non-profit partnership that owns the 290-kilometre-long rail corridor between Victoria and Nanaimo.

The announcement didn’t include work that needs to be done on the route between Alberni and Parksville, but McRae wouldn’t rule that out for the future.

“We’re a gateway to the Pacific and to be that you have to have rail and a port and we have both. A lot of politicians don’t realize that about us,” he said.

“The big thing is that the federal government has recognized that rail is important to the Island. That’s a big step and one step at a time.”

The Alberni Valley could still benefit from the work between Victoria and Courtenay. “They’ve got to install a lot of ties and APD in Alberni is the biggest producer of railway ties in B.C.,” McRae said. The province estimates that there are 104,000 ties.

The initiative is underwritten by the Building Canada Fund. Of the total project cost of $15 million $500,000 has already been expended by the province to study the safety of bridges and trestles along the line.

Funding for this project is conditional on the completion of a federal project review and the signing of a contribution agreement.

“The Island Corridor Foundation’s plan to revitalize passenger service and start train service in Nanaimo makes a new future for business and tourism possible,” added James Lunney, MP for Nanaimo-Alberni.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com