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Premier John Horgan doubts return of Island rail service is achievable

Lack of federal support a barrier says Horgan as deadline looms
The E&N track along Station Avenue in Langford. (Black Press Media file photo)

Premier John Horgan isn’t confident the vision for the Island Corridor is achievable as the deadline for restoring the rail line looms.

After he was elected as an MLA in 2005, Horgan said one of his first meetings was with Langford Mayor Stew Young about restoring the railway, but now the province has been behind on the project for more than a decade.

“I don’t have any hope to offer today, because the cost of providing a service just from the West Shore into Victoria is profound,” Horgan said during a press event on Wednesday (Aug. 4).

He added there are other issues that would make commuter rail less viable. For example, when the Johnson Street Bridge was rebuilt, the railway tracks were removed, meaning passenger rail would have to stop in Esquimalt.

Horgan also noted the federal government’s lack of support has slowed things down.

“I think we have a challenge in that the federal government – and I’m not dumping on them – they responded to a call from communities on the Island and First Nations on the Island to get back that corridor for transportation purposes. Unfortunately, the federal government said here’s your corridor, and then they left.”

READ MORE: View Royal calls on government to save Island Corridor rail line

Municipalities throughout Greater Victoria and across the Island have been calling on the federal and provincial governments to step up and preserve the railway in recent months. View Royal passed a resolution at its June 7 council meeting, with Langford, Metchosin and Sooke later adding their support. That comes as the B.C. Court of Appeal’s March 2023 deadline to make a decision on restoring the railway nears.

It’s been more than a decade since the Island Corridor, formerly known as the E&N Rail Corridor, had trains run along its tracks in Greater Victoria. The line provided freight and passenger rail service between Victoria and Courtenay, and between Nanaimo and Port Alberni, from its founding in 1886 to its closure due to maintenance concerns.

The Island Corridor Foundation was established to take over ownership of the line from the Canadian Pacific Railroad and has been working to find funding to restart operations.

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