Re-establishing passenger rail on Vancouver Island had to start somewhere and the next step is to resurrect it to Port Alberni, Island Corridor Foundation board member Ken McRae said.
Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) officials announced a tentative deal between Southern Railway and VIA Rail to reestablish commuter service on the old E&N line.
When up and running, the new service will operate out of Nanaimo and will allow for an early morning train to Victoria, ICF officials said. The agreement is yet to be ratified by ICF, Southern Rail and VIA Rail boards. VIA Rail denied in a CBC.ca story that they are even close to a deal.
The train’s next stop – Port Alberni, McRae said. “Bringing rail back to the Island was key and it had to start somewhere,” he said. “It will eventually be good for Port Alberni. Rail definitely has a future here.”
There’s no fixed time frame for bringing the service to Port Alberni, he said. “But it’s started now and will eventually grow out.”
The E&N railway extends from Courtenay to Port Alberni and repair work would have to be done on the tracks and trestles along the stretch before the service could be brought here. “But it’s not in that bad a shape on the other side of Cameron Lake,” he said.
Port Alberni may yet benefit though from the project. The initiative will require rails and cross-arms which could be bid on and produced by local mills, McRae said.
Federal, provincial and regional funding agreements need to be finalized before track and trestle work can be tendered. Track and bridge improvements are estimated to take nine months once work commences.
VIA suspended the once-daily passenger train in 2011 because of poor track conditions. Talks between the company and ICF have been stalled ever since.
With files from the Nanaimo News Bulletin