One of the top priorities for Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney over the course of the federal government’s new mandate will be to get the trains running on Vancouver Island again.
Speaking from Ottawa, Lunney said he has already begun work to help secure funding for the E&N Railway.
“Securing funding for the E&N is one of my priorities,” he said. “I think the railway is a priority for me and for many on the Island.”
Lunney conceded his job of securing funding to upgrade the track to the point where passenger service can be re-established faces a number of hurdles.
“The challenge I have is that infrastructure investments are partnerships,” he said.
“I am not going to be successful if the province is not on board. However, I see some very hopeful signals coming out of the new minister, positive signals that he is seeking funding from cabinet. That’s a very positive sign and he encouraging the federal government to partner with them.”
Lunney said a revitalized rail system doesn’t have to be fancy, just efficient and reliable.
“The distances are not great on the Island, so it doesn’t need to be a rocket train,” he said. “It has to be competent and safe, not just for passengers but also for dangerous goods. The recent spill on the Malahat is a case in point.”
Renewed rail service, he added, could also prove to be an economic driver.
“Another reason to retain rail on the Island is the possibility of wing and rail tours,” he said.
Despite a few naysayers, he added, he sees very broad support for retaining rail service on Vancouver Island.
“There’s tremendous momentum to retain rail on the Island, besides a few who don’t like hearing the whistle going by twice a day.”
The E&N Dayliner has not operated since March 19, when passenger service between Victoria and Courtenay was ceased due to poor track conditions.
Besides the E&N issue, Lunney said he is working to improve tsunami preparations on Vancouver Island, and to tighten up regulations regarding derelict vessels.