In 1998, CPR sold the middle part of the corridor to RailAmerica. When RailAmerica’s largest customer decided to discontinue using rail freight in 2001, RailAmerica announced its intention to shut down rail service, sell its assets and leave the Island. Vancouver Island was again faced with the prospect of losing rail service and having the property sold off in parcels to private interests.
Cowichan Tribes saw the wisdom of preserving the corridor and called together First Nations and local communities to find a permanent solution to the ongoing uncertainty of rail service on the Island. This led to the development of the Island Corridor Foundation to preserve the corridor in perpetuity, to broaden community usage of the corridor itself, and to seek an operator willing to rebuild and improve both freight and passenger rail service.
The McLean Mill Steam Train runs on ICF track (Alberni sub) between downtown Port Alberni and the Mill site during the summer. This is one of the best tourist train attractions on Vancouver Island.
We have negotiated an agreement with CPR in which they agreed to donate their assets in the corridor, including track, gravel, rails, trestles, ties, culverts, the land comprising the right of way and 6 railway stations.
In addition, they have agreed to turn over the non-rail revenue generated by leases and encroachments on the line. They will also make a sizeable donation to the Foundation.
We have also negotiated an agreement with RailAmerica in which they donated their portion of the corridor to the Foundation, including track, ties, gravel, culverts, trestles and the right of way.
We have successfully negotiated an agreement with Southern Railway, a highly respected short rail operator, to take over rail operations on the Island as of July 1, 2006. VIA Rail will continue to provide passenger service.
It demonstrates that the Foundation will be financially successful in its ability to work with community interests along the right of way, and in its role as landlord and lessor to an experienced rail operator.