The Province of B.C. has committed to work with the Island Corridor Foundation and First Nations to do an assessment of the E&N rail corridor, which encompasses an area that includes Victoria, Courtenay and Nanaimo. (CHRIS BUSH/Black Press)

B.C. gov’t to fund assessment of E&N rail line on Vancouver Island

Ministry of Transportation to work with Island Corridor Foundation, First Nations on train study

Plans are afoot to evaluate track conditions for Vancouver Island’s main rail line to determine if train service could return.

The Island Corridor Foundation – a non-profit owning the E&N corridor with rail line that runs through Nanaimo from Victoria to Courtenay and Parksville to Port Alberni – was part of a Dec. 10 meeting with local and provincial governments and First Nations to discuss the rail line’s the fate. In an e-mail, the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said the government committed to “an updated engineering assessment of the corridor,” which it will lead along with First Nations and ICF.

Money for the work will come from the province, but details of the assessment are still in discussion and no dollar amounts are currently available, the ministry said. Passenger service was discontinued in 2011 due to poor track conditions.

Alec McPherson, Regional District of Nanaimo representative on the ICF board, was at the meeting and said there is potential in passenger rail service from Nanaimo to Victoria again. It is dependent on cost however, as he estimates repair work could be in the “hundreds of millions.”

“That is going to be the thing is what the costs estimates are and how much can you move forward … how do you continue to pay for maintenance?” said McPherson. “You need to be able to get revenue coming in whether it’s from freight, whether it’s from your tourism, whatever, that is sufficient to maintain those tracks and not just let them deteriorate by five or seven per cent every year. So there’s a lot of moving parts in this, a lot of moving parts, and so it will be interesting. The first step is to get this study that everybody can read and agree upon to say, OK, now this sounds right.”

Larry Stevenson, new ICF CEO, said getting an assessment is important given there are a “multitude” of figures out there for cost of track improvements. He said he’s seen one study that estimates it at $200 million.

“There’s been a bunch of numbers floated back and forth, but one of the things that’s readily apparent, is that there is no vision as to what this thing is that’s been agreed upon by anybody,” said Stevenson.

“I went out and did town halls across the Island and people were very quick to say, ‘Well where’s your business plan?’ and my response to that always was, you can’t do a business plan on something [if] you don’t know what you’re going to do. My struggle here is the numbers are so different depending upon what you build and what you want.

“Until you get to a shared vision as to what it is we’re actually going to build, and when I say shared vision, I mean a vision that’s been shared with province and the stakeholders as to what’s required, you can’t really put a price tag on it.”

Speaking on behalf of the ministry, Mitzi Dean, MLA for Esquimalt-Metchosin who sees the line running through her riding, said an assessment is important.

“It’s a really valuable asset and it’s so unique,” said Dean, adding that a railway is a difficult thing to quantify. “What we want to do is go through due process so we have a really good assessment so that we make good, well-informed decisions that meet the transportation needs of communities across the Island as a result of this assessment.”

Stevenson said he will meet with ministry officials next week to set parameters of the assessment and move forward with putting a request for proposals together.

“I don’t expect this is going to take long,” said Stevenson. “This isn’t going to be a five-month study. This is going to be something that’s going to happen very quickly.”



reporter@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Crooner classics past and present in spotlight, courtesy of Ken Lavigne

Island tenor prepares for upcoming concert tour of Let Me Be Frank!

Port Alberni workers to honour Day of Mourning on April 28

Annual event honours workers who lost their lives on the job

Tseshaht First Nation athlete honoured with provincial sports award

Rain Thomas competes in three different sports

Alberni Valley firefighters pass the boot for Muscular Dystrophy

Annual fundraiser started in 1967 with Port Alberni Fire Department

Cougars spotted in Sproat Lake neighbourhoods

ACRD director warns residents to keep children, pets close

VIDEO: Alberni Valley celebrates Easter weekend

Port Alberni children enjoy Easter egg hunts and spring activities

Search on for two kayakers reported missing off Qualicum area

Rescue personnel currently scouring area in vicinity of Lasqueti Island

Child, 11, accidentally shot in chest by 13-year-old in southern Alberta: RCMP

Child taken from Hutterite colony to nearby hospital Monday

Ceremonies, vigils planned in Toronto to honour victims of deadly van attack

Many of those who helped that day — first responders and Good Samaritans alike — still affected

Easter bombings a response to New Zealand attacks, says Sri Lanka minister

The Islamic State group asserted it was responsible for the nine bombings

PHOTOS: New commemorative loonie marks progress’ for LGBTQ2 people

But advocates say it mistakenly suggests equality has been achieved largely as a result of government actions

Man charged in fatal Salmon Arm church shooting to appear in court

Matrix Savage Gathergood charged with first degree murder, aggravated assault

RCMP looking to retrace steps of woman found dead on Kelowna beach

Caitlin Midori Bradley, a 29-year-old dancer at a Kelowna bar, was originally from Surrey

Busy Tuesday for BC Ferries passengers

First sailings to and from Swartz Bay sold out

Most Read