B.C. government pledges funds to E&N Rail line

Times Colonist, June 28, 2011
By Bill Cleverly
Premier Christy Clark pledged Tuesday to help get the E&N Rail line back on track by announcing $7.5 million in provincial funding toward track improvements.
But the money is conditional. An inspection of bridges along the line must be completed and the federal government must give similar funding.
“I am delighted to announce that the province will provide $7.5 million in funding to the Island Corridor Foundation,” Clark told a gathering of Vancouver Island mayors and other elected officials in Nanaimo.
“Now $500,000 of that will allow the foundation to complete an engineering inspection of approximately 40 rail bridges along the way. The remaining $7 million is conditional on the foundation getting matching funding of $7.5 million from its partners and demonstrating that the rail link is indeed safe.”
View Royal Mayor Graham Hill and Oak Bay Mayor Christopher Causton were among capital region officials at the announcement.
Both were optimistic a similar announcement will come soon from the federal government.
“I’m feeling pretty good about it,” Causton said. “I don’t think the premier would have gone ahead with the announcement without some knowledge that they were going to be backed,” he said.
“We are hopeful that will be happening shortly,” said Graham.
Island communities, which own the track through the Island Corridor Foundation, have been lobbying hard for $15 million from the federal and provincial governments to fix badly damaged rail ties. The ties must be repaired before passenger trains can run on the track again. Passenger service was suspended in April because of safety concerns sparked by poor track conditions.
The 130-year-old track, which runs 225 kilometres from Victoria to Courtenay, is seen by some as a key transportation corridor and the possible site of a commuter rail service in Greater Victoria.
Graham Bruce, Island Corridor Foundation executive director, said if the federal contribution is announced soon, passenger service could resume by mid-October.
Island Conservative MPs James Lunney and John Duncan have been attempting to secure federal funding.
Clark has said she discussed the issue with Duncan, the federal aboriginal affairs minister, and expects Ottawa to be at the table.
Lunney was at the Nanaimo gathering and nodding positively when references to federal funding were made.
Bruce said the $15 million is needed to make improvements to the rail line. Other initiatives such as running a peak-hour pilot commuter service between Cowichan and Victoria, and Victoria and Langford will require their own funding plans, he said.
“Just like any transit system there’s got to be funding players in all of that,” Bruce said. “There may be and quite likely will be other involvement by federal and provincial governments depending on what it is that we are looking to achieve.”
With its funding, Clark said, the province expects the corridor foundation to get people using the train.
“They will also find ways to ensure that they are maximizing the number of passengers and the amount of cargo that goes along the line because in the long run for this railway to work people need to use it,” she said.
Mary Ashley, co-chair of the foundation, called the announcement “the most important moment in the history of the railway in the last 150 years.”
Tourism Victoria executive director Rob Gialloreto said he doesn’t have hard numbers, but he’s sure the lack of a passenger service has affected tourism on the Island.
“Logic would dictate it would (have an impact),” said Gialloreto. “Especially in the last two years of recessionary times, before the dollar got to where it is now, we had a reliance on domestic and, indeed, provincial tourism traffic to Victoria.
“So any link that isn’t there, linking us up to Courtenay and up-Island, would have been detrimental for us.”
© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist
Premier Christy Clark arrives at the Nanaimo Station.
ICF co-chair Mary Ashley welcomes the provincial government announcement. She is joined by ICF directors Graham Hill and Joe Stanhope and MLA Ron Cantelon, Premiere Christy Clark, MLA Ida Chong and MLA Don McRae.
ICF co-chair Judith Sayers addresses guests at the Nanaimo Station.
The Premier with ICF co-chair Mary Ashley and MLAs Ida Chong, Don McRae and Ron Cantelon.


5 thoughts on “B.C. government pledges funds to E&N Rail line

  1. Hello, I was keeping tabs on what’s been happening with the rails on Vancouver island and am extremely pleased that the provincial government is stepping in to provide funding. As a resident of Newfoundland, where we no longer have trains, I cannot stress it enough that every effort be made to keep rail service on the island. When we lost our railway 20 years ago, it seemed like a small matter. Today, it has drastically negative effects. With trucks being the only mode of shipping goods, they take a toll on our highways, have higher fuel consumption vs. trains and have higher operating costs which raises the costs of goods and services for everyone here in Newfoundland. Please DO NOT allow the rails on Vancouver Island to be pulled. Thank you and have a great day.

  2. It is great that the provincial government is finally coming up with some cash for the island corridor. I suggest that this is too slow and the rail line should be given a much higher priority. In his 2010 book, Climatopolis, economist Matthew Kahn notes (albeit in a poorly referenced section) that there is 61X less fuel used moving goods by diesel locomotive than by trucks. This suggests that the government transfer of subsidy from highways to rail could very quickly reduce greenhouse gas emissions on Vancouver Island and throughout BC

  3. It is high time we went back to rail transit. The environmental reasons, fuel peaks, economy of transport and many cost saving measures predicate it’s use.
    A fixed rail link to the mainland via Seymour Narrows is possible and would develop our provincial economy.

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