The Government of B.C. has affirmed its commitment to provide $7 million to the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) to support the future of the E&N rail line on Vancouver Island.
“The government understands the importance of the historic E&N rail corridor to communities across Vancouver Island,” said Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone. “We want to see the return of a fully operational passenger rail service on Vancouver Island and today we are one step closer.”
Planned passenger service for this corridor includes twice daily runs from Nanaimo to Victoria, service to Qualicum Beach on Wednesdays and weekends, and service to Courtenay on weekends and statutory holidays.
The provincial funds will be provided to the Island Corridor Foundation once it has confirmed that $7.5 million in federal funding is in place and, through a tendering process, that the upgrade work can be completed within the $20.4 million it has budgeted. The regional districts of Nanaimo, Comox Valley, Cowichan Valley, Alberni-Clayoquot, the Capital Regional District, Southern Railway of Vancouver Island and the Island Corridor Foundation have committed the remaining $5.9 million of this funding.
“Putting together the funding has required the ICF to have patience and determination, but the board has not wavered in its resolve to keep rail service alive on Vancouver Island,” said ICF co-chair Dr. Judith Sayers. “We know the people are supportive of the rail project and we all look forward to getting the VIA passenger service operational between Victoria and Courtenay.”
BC Safety Authority – an independent organization that is mandated to ensure that all railways comply with the safety regulations for their railway class – has committed to working closely with the Island Corridor Foundation and its operator, Southern Railway of Vancouver Island, as they develop and issue a tender for the necessary upgrades required on the rail line. This oversight, along with significant due diligence on the part of the BC Safety Authority, Island Corridor Foundation and Southern Railway of Vancouver Island, will ensure the upgrades meet safety requirements for rail service along the corridor.
“The ICF appreciates the due diligence all parties have undertaken in ensuring we will have a safe and successful rail operation on the Island,” said ICF co-chair and Nanaimo mayor Bill McKay. “The provincial review has been extensive and we are pleased Minister Stone has confirmed the provincial funding today. We look forward to the federal government making a similar announcement in the near future.”
“Our company has developed a strong working relationship with the ICF and believes there is a viable future for rail on the Island,” said Southern Rail president Frank Butzelaar. “We see four lines of rail business occurring; passenger, freight, excursion and commuter. We still operate freight in the Nanaimo region and have a new agreement with VIA Rail for the passenger service. Excursion rail opportunities are being explored with the Nanaimo Port Authority and there has been work done in the past with the western communities to examine commuter service.”
As part of the total $7.5 million commitment made to this project in 2011, the Province previously provided $500,000 to fund a study of the 48 bridges and trestles on the E&N corridor between Victoria and Courtenay.