Announcement: Tentative Agreement

As Co- Chair of the Island Corridor Foundation, on behalf of our Board I am very pleased to announce that Southern Rail and VIA Rail have reached a tentative agreement to provide passenger rail service for the people of Vancouver Island.
With this train service agreement the Foundation is now able to access $20 million in infrastructure funding for track and bridge improvements. Through the partnership of federal, provincial and regional governments, Southern Rail and ICF will be able to improve the tracks and get passenger rail re-started. It will also provide the opportunity to aggressively pursue new and expanded rail services over the next ten years.
On behalf of the ICF and all of you who have been so supportive, I would like to thank Southern and VIA for their hard work in reaching this agreement.  Sometimes good things just take longer to accomplish but we are here today as proof that they can be done if we hold fast to our goals.
I’d also like you to acknowledge with me the employees of Southern Rail who are here today, and who have lived in hope of this announcement. For them, more than anyone it has been a long wait;  they have comfort in knowing their jobs still exist. Give a great shout out for Frank Butzelaar, President of Southern Rail and Don McGregor SVI Project Manager who put together the business case we needed in order to proceed….well done!!
Train operations both passenger and freight will be centrally located here in Nanaimo, allowing for more frequency and an early morning southbound passenger train to Victoria. Over the next month the initial schedule will be fine-tuned. It is the aim of our operator to develop and provide a dynamic service that meets changing ridership needs, and to be able to adapt to the demand.
The ICF membership of First Nations and Regional Districts, the ICF Boards both past and present, and the “Friends of Rail” are to be commended for their strong and steadfast determination to protect this corridor for track and TRAIL use. To the many of you who have not wavered, I thank you so much.
We also thank the Federal Government, Minister Lisa Raitt and MP James Lunney for their assistance in encouraging the parties to find ways to meet their respective objectives, and for the matching federal infrastructure dollars that James Lunney and John Duncan worked so hard to deliver.
In the Spring of 2011 Premier Christy Clark rode the train to this station and announced the BC Government’s financial support of $7.5 million. She made the commitment that her government through Transportation Minister Todd Stone would assist in restoring the VIA Rail passenger service. We thank the Premier for her confidence and direction, and we thank Minister Stone and Minister Don McRae for their personal involvement.
In an unprecedented manner the five regional districts along the right of way came together to provide $3.2 million for bridge improvements. Although the VIA agreement has taken longer than expected the continuing regional support on behalf of the citizens of Vancouver Island is greatly appreciated.
While we enjoy this moment there is still much work to do before the passenger train whistle blows again. The agreement is to be ratified by the three respective Boards; funding agreements will be signed off, tendering and awarding of bids will proceed, and there will be approximately nine months of track work.
That being said, over the past twelve years we have all worked together and we have saved rail on Vancouver Island! Let’s savour the fulfillment of our goals to preserve the Island Corridor, and keep rail alive. Thank you, all.
Mary Ashley
Island Corridor Foundation

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