VIA Rail’s commitment to Island Rail still unclear

Island Corridor Foundation CEO says latest comments are 'encouraging'

 

 

VIA Rails’ latest comment about restarting the old train service agreement for Island passenger rail is at least an encouraging sign, says Graham Bruce, CEO of the Island Corridor Foundation.

“This is good news for Islanders wishing to once again use passenger rail,” Bruce said in a news release. “However, what is lost in the story is the fact that under the existing agreement, VIA has two significant issues to deal with before service can commence. One is the issue of a new Victoria station and the other is finding a train maintenance centre in the Victoria region.”

Under the existing agreement, VIA is responsible for everything including stations, property insurance and taxes, rail cars, maintenance facilities, marketing, scheduling and liability insurance. It also provides an annual subsidy for the difference between revenues and operating expenses. Over the past 10 years the annual subsidy has ranged between a low of $973,000 and a high of $1,933,000.

Because the Victoria station and rail car maintenance facilities no longer exist it is problematic for VIA to restart the existing agreement. The ICF is prepared to help solve those problems.

However, both issues are dealt with in a new comprehensive train service proposal put forth in April on behalf of the ICF by its train operator Southern Rail. VIA Rail has not responded to the proposal.

The new proposal was drafted after an invitation by VIA to do so. A February letter from VIA to the president of Southern Rail suggested that “ICF/SVI may want to consider an alternative plan whereby it would take over operation of the reinstated service.”

Bruce said the comprehensive plan addresses all issues identified by VIA Rail.

VIA also states that track repairs must be undertaken before passenger service can commence.

The ICF has federal, provincial and regional government commitments of $18.2 million for rail infrastructure improvements contingent on a new train service agreement with VIA.

A track and bridge infrastructure improvement plan was prepared in consultation with the Ministry of Transportation and BC Safety Authority, the railway regulatory body. An upgrade plan followed a ministry study, a third party report on the condition of railway infrastructure, and a bridge engineering Inspection/evaluation report.

“We all want a safe and efficient passenger service. Either VIA doesn’t understand the infrastructure funds are contingent on the passenger rail agreement or they are just trying to delay in hopes that the people of Vancouver Island will go away,” Bruce said.

VIA has a federal mandate to provide rail passenger service throughout Canada. Although the Island rail service has old equipment and a poor schedule, ridership increased six per cent annually in each of the last six years of operation, according to VIA’s annual report.

“With a little enthusiasm from VIA and all the parties working together, rail service could see continued ridership growth. This is exactly why we are asking VIA Rail to come back to the table and work out the arrangements for a train service agreement.

“The April proposal actually helps VIA in many other ways including limiting its revenue risks, so it is very hard to understand VIA’s reluctance to solve these issues through a new agreement,” said Bruce.

He said it is imperative for islanders who wish to see rail continue to write government and VIA officials. Pertinent information can be found on the island rail website.

– Island Corridor Foundation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Posted

Affordable rental housing complex opens in Courtenay

The Braidwood facility will house 34 people at risk of homelessness

Applications open for record bursary, scholarship funding at North Island College

Current and future North Island College students can now apply for scholarships… Continue reading

Second Stage Players present laughter and love in We Are Family

Get your tickets early to see the Evergreen Club’s Second Stage Players’… Continue reading

Open house opens access for those suffering from vision loss

Pat Chicquen understands how isolating losing vision can be, which is why… Continue reading

Valley SPCA overwhelmed with 45 cats taken from local property

Many of the cats have never been around humans, or have never been touched or handled.

B.C. researcher says device mimics parent’s touch to help babies cope with pain

Calmer device is a rectangular platform that replaces a mattress inside an incubator

Comox Valley Hospice Society finds new Ocean Front home

Comox Valley Hospice Society (CVHS) recently announced plans to construct a new… Continue reading

Late-season wave of the flu makes its round in B.C.

BC Centre for Disease Control reported 50 per cent jump in flu cases in first weeks of March

Tofino’s housing crisis causing some to seek shelter at the local hospital

Tofino’s housing crisis is pushing the town’s ‘hidden homeless’ population into the forefront.

Sentencing judge in Broncos crash calls for carnage on highways to end

Judge Inez Cardinal sentenced Jaskirat Singh Sidhu to eight years

2 fires in Victoria caused by cigarettes prompts warning from deputy fire chief

Two separate fires caused by cigarette butts were avoidable

Wildlife activists slam B.C. business, clubs for ‘wolf-whacking’ contests

Chilcotin Guns, Creston Valley Rod and Gun Club and West Kootenay Outdoorsmen Club under fire

‘Families torn apart:’ Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash gets 8-year sentence

Judge Inez Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask., that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors

Vancouver Island motorists attempted CPR on victim in fatal Highway 4 crash

Collision took place west of Whiskey Creek; man in his 70s died

Most Read