Campaign continues to restore rail service

AUGUST 30, 2013
There could be movement to get a Vancouver Island passenger rail agreement as early as next week.
Federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt recently said she’d try to persuade Via Rail to talk to the Island Corridor Foundation to get an agreement for passenger rail service, which ended in February 2011. Since then, three levels of government have put $18-million into a fund for bridge and rail repairs needed for the passenger rail to run.
Talks to get a new rail service agreement have gone nowhere since ICF submitted its proposal for a new rail service agreement in April.
ICF CEO Graham Bruce led a campaign to get those talks on, and B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone got on side earlier this summer.
Bruce said high-level talks have been arranged for Tuesday but offered no other details.
“We’re really trying not to comment at this point,” said Bruce. Where Bruce recently said Via is “close to bad-faith bargaining,” that rhetoric is now gone.
ICF wants a $1.8-million annual Via Rail subsidy so it can base passenger service from Nanaimo, with morning and evening runs to Victoria, and a mid-day Courtenay trip.
Frustrated by Via’s refusal to respond to the proposal, ICF launched a letter-writing campaign on the Island, asking senior government to get Via to the table. That campaign appears to have helped.
“Taxpayers are concerned, and it demonstrates support and interest to maintain rail on Vancouver Island,” Bruce said.
He doesn’t have the names of those involved in the talks on Tuesday, and any outcome would likely take several days, he said.
“If I hear anything, I will call you, but in the normal course of how the flow goes, I wouldn’t expect anything until later in the week,” Bruce said.
Bruce said earlier an agreement is needed by Aug. 31, but he’s since softened his stance.
“The parties have said they’re going to do something, and we’re going to let them carry it through,” he said.
“What we’re going to do at the moment, we’ll not respond to anything until this decision. The whole point was to get this discussion to occur, and the ministers are doing that, and it would be prudent of us not to do anything now.” 250-729-4235
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