More needed to revive train service, says Courtenay mayor

E&N passenger rail service is back on track because the province is providing $7.5 million, Premier Christy Clark announced Tuesday in Nanaimo, in response to a $15-million request for essential repairs from the Island Corridor Foundation.

Provisional funding announced Tuesday by the B.C. government might lead to the return of this scene at the Courtenay train station.

Provisional funding announced Tuesday by the B.C. government might lead to the return of this scene at the Courtenay train station.

E&N passenger rail service is back on track because the province is providing $7.5 million, Premier Christy Clark announced Tuesday in Nanaimo, in response to a $15-million request for essential repairs from the Island Corridor Foundation.

“This is a great day for Vancouver Island,” Clark said. “Vancouver Island mayors have told us loud and clear that this rail service supports their economies by creating jobs, which in turn supports many families along the route.”

She described the corridor as a “treasure for every single citizen.”

Funding will be provided in two parts.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure will contribute up to $500,000 for an engineering inspection on the condition of about 40 rail bridges and trestles on the line. The balance of $7 million will help the ICF, which owns the railway, repair the track and ensure passenger safety.

The $7 million, however, is conditional upon the final bridge inspection and ICF matching the other $7.5 million — which will come from the federal government — that it needs to ensure all repairs are completed and passenger train service can safely resume.

“Not only is the E&N an important part of the heritage of the Island, but its role in transporting agricultural products and other freight is vital to many people and businesses,” Comox Valley MLA Don McRae said.

Courtenay Mayor Greg Phelps represents the Comox Valley Regional District on the ICF board. Though he appreciates the province is stepping to the table with $500,000, he is concerned about the other money that is contingent on the federal government.

“What we have right now is a promise, and a promise doesn’t build a railway,” said Phelps, noting North Island MP John Duncan and Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney have advocated on behalf of the ICF.

“But until we actually have a commitment from them, we still only have $500,000,” Phelps said. “I hate to say it, but show me the money. We need the commitment of our other partner in there.”

The rail operator, Southern Railway on Vancouver Island, suspended passenger train service in the spring when it determined the line was no longer safe and funding was not available to make repairs. Inspections identified decaying wooden rail ties, worn or loose bolts and vegetation overgrowth.

The E&N rail line has operated on Vancouver Island for 125 years. It runs 225 kilometres between Victoria and Courtenay.

Before passenger service was suspended, there was a self-powered passenger car running daily and a freight service. The latter continues to operate.

• • •

Quick facts

The E&N rail line has been in operation on Vancouver Island for 125 years.

• It runs 225 km, between Victoria and Courtenay.

• Before passenger service was suspended earlier this spring, service consisted of one self-powered passenger car running daily between Victoria and Courtenay and a freight service.

• Freight service on the line continues to operate.

• The railway is owned by the ICF and operated under contract by the SRVI. VIA Rail owns the passenger car equipment and provides ticketing

services.

• The ICF is a partnership of First Nations, five regional districts and 14 municipalities.

• The governments of Canada and British Columbia assisted in the creation of the ICF by allowing CP Rail to donate the corridor to the ICF as a

charitable donation.

• In 2008, the Province forgave $4.5 million of taxes owed by the ICF when it acquired the railway corridor and contributed $500,000 to a study

of the future viability of the E&N rail service, which was release in July 2010.

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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