Officials from the Island Corridor Foundation hope the fledgling NDP government will support its newest proposal for rail service on the Island.
Phil Kent, the mayor of Duncan and vice-chairman of the ICF, said a meeting with the province’s new Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Clair Trevena on Nov. 9 left the delegation optimistic the government will at least give the proposal serious consideration.
The ICF, which owns the increasingly dilapidated 220-kilometre rail line that stretches from Victoria to Courtenay, is hoping senior levels of government will agree to split the costs of the new $42.7-million proposal which would pay for major track upgrades between Nanaimo and Victoria, which is considered to be phase one of the overall project.
Passenger train service on the E&N Railway line was stopped in 2011 due to track safety concerns, and freight service has also been discontinued between Duncan and Parksville.
Both the province and Ottawa tentatively agreed several years ago to fund $7.5 million each towards the initiative, with local governments agreeing to come up with approximately $5 million, but Kent said the scope of the project has significantly changed since then.
He said the new proposed project focuses on service only between Nanaimo and Victoria and would provide inter-city Via passenger rail service, a tourist excursion train between the Nanaimo cruise ship terminal and Chemainus and an expansion of the currently operating freight service.
It would also provide the infrastructure support for a trial RDC commuter service between Victoria and Langford which the Capital Regional District would operate.
The plan calls for 120,000 railway ties to be replaced, 70,000 tonnes of ballast, bridge repairs and upgrades, safety sight and sound barriers through several First Nation communities, crossing safety improvements and a trail walkway across the Chemainus River Bridge.
“The minister was very supportive and said the government would assess the new proposal, and we’re pleased with that,” Kent said.
“It’s important that both levels of government make a commitment to this project and we need someone to take the lead. It’s easier to access federal funding programs if the province has committed to funding.”
Kent said planning for connecting rail service north of Nanaimo, which is phase 2 of the overall project, is on hold until a resolution is found with the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation in Nanoose.
The First Nation claims the railway land in its traditional territory was wrongfully taken from it years ago to build the railway and is seeking to have it returned.