Railway discussions continue

Passenger service ceased since 2011

Southern Rail of Vancouver Island continues to conduct weekly inspection and maintenance of the Island railway from Victoria to Courtenay, according to the Island Corridor Foundation. Work includes replacement of ties and rails, culvert and drainage inspection/replacement, vegetation management, signal inspection and maintenance at grade crossings.

In a news release following its January board meeting, the ICF notes that Premier John Horgan does not want further railway studies, but does want to see a decision about passenger service within the next two years.

Foundation directors and representatives of Southern Rail met last year with Transportation Minister Claire Trevena to remind her of the many studies already undertaken.

“The Province continues to look at the E&N rail line as a possible way to improve transportation on Vancouver Island,” the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said in a statement. “(Esquimalt-Metchosin) MLA Mitzi Dean is leading discussions with local First Nations and municipal partners about how best to transform the E&N line into a functional corridor, and to make sure their ideas and needs are included in our plans.

“Although these consultations are focused on the southern part of Vancouver Island, they will influence decisions on the future of the full E&N rail line. MLA Dean’s consultation will inform government’s next steps on the E&N rail line in the coming months.”

The ICF owns the E&N line. Via Rail, which halted passenger service in 2011 due to safety concerns, says it will resume service when the state of the tracks passes regulatory inspections and safety requirements. Local and senior governments have committed millions to restore the service, though the Regional District of Nanaimo withdrew its commitment of nearly $1 million.

A group dubbed, Friends of Rails to Trails Vancouver Island, would like to see the 224-kilometre railway from Victoria to Courtenay become a multi-use trail.

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