EDITORIAL: (Still) working on the railroad
You can bet there was some heavy politicking up and down the Island to secure support from five regional districts for the old E&N.
Island Corridor Foundation chair Graham Bruce, a former MLA, must be beaming to think the ICF is significantly closer to restoring rail service between Courtenay and Victoria.
A Comox Valley Regional District board decision to approve a one-time grant-in-aid of $392,000 to the ICF was only one building block, but a vital one. It helps to get the ICF to its goal of $3.2 million to repair 48 bridge structures, restoring the railway’s viability.
A CVRD staff report will be forwarded to Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland officials for comment, but those three municipalities all are represented on the CVRD that has okayed the funds.
With provincial and federal money totalling $15 million, the way now seems clear to restore and expand passenger and freight service.
Bruce says construction could begin in the spring, with passenger service perhaps resuming by next October.
A railway is a tangible link between communities and it has emotional currency with the people who use it and many of the people who pay for it.
There’s the potential rub. Railways historically lose money, big money.
The CVRD commitment of tax dollars is a one-time deal, but the railway has to be a long-term commitment or the one-time funds are not much use.
The ICF will be back in the future when its costly infrastructure needs repairing again.
It’s imperative to delay that day as long as possible by attracting freight customers and luring passengers.
A schedule that makes sense to passengers is crucial and so is marketing rail travel as a viable alternative for Vancouver Islanders and tourists visiting our beautiful part of the world.
Maybe Comox Valley Economic Development could use a portion of the generous funding it gets each year from taxpayers to help the cause.