Doug Routley told a rally of railway enthusiasts on June 1 that he and the NDP government remain committed to the revival of the E&N Railway.
Routley, the NDP MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan, told the rally, hosted by the E&N Railway Roundtable organization, that he has had conversations recently with Premier John Horgan on the issue.
He said both agreed that a working railway is seen as one of the keys to solving the Island’s transportation problems.
“I’m not here to make any big announcements or to present anyone with a giant cheque,” he told the small gathering at the Duncan Train Station Friday morning.
“But you can be assured that this government is committed to the E&N Railway. John (Horgan) and I met right at this spot after he and I were first elected to government as MLAs when he came to Duncan by train to support the railway.”
The rally was organized two weeks after Horgan told a group of business representatives that the government may be leaning towards expanding bus service instead of railways on some routes.
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Horgan told the business leaders that a proposal to establish a light-rail service in the south Island, from Victoria to Langford, doesn’t have a business case to support it, and that the government is more interested in building bus lanes.
Duncan Mayor Phil Kent, who is also vice-chairman of the Island Corridor Foundation which owns the deteriorating 220-kilometre rail line that stretches from Victoria to Courtenay, said revitalizing the railway is important now and for future generations economically, socially and culturally.
‘We’ve met with (Transportation Minister) Claire Trevena on May 30 on this issue and we’re hoping to soon have a meeting with the premier,” Kent said.
“We must make the government realize there are viable alternatives to roads in the capital region and the entire Island.”
Passenger train service on the E&N rail line was stopped in 2011 due to track safety concerns, and freight service has also been discontinued between Duncan and Parksville.
The ICF presented a $42.7-million proposal to revive the railway to the new NDP government last November, with the hopes that senior levels of government would split the costs of major track upgrades between Nanaimo and Victoria, which is considered to be phase one of the overall project.
Neither the province nor Ottawa have yet committed to the plan.
Jack Peake, chairman of the E&N Railway Roundtable, a group committed to coordinating efforts throughout the Island to help preserve and revive the Island’s rail corridor, encouraged those in attendance at the rally to write, email or call Horgan and Trevena to support the railway.
“The sqeaky when gets the grease,” he said.
“Time of the essence. If we let the rail line slip any further, it will soon be too late. The rail line is a billion-dollar asset and it’s foolish not to look after it. We’re not just trying to bring back the old days; this is important to the people of today and generations from now.”