E&N Editorial Off Track

December 15th 2017
E&N Editorial Off Track
Your editorial of November 28th ‘E&N line needs new approach’ is full of blame but devoid of fact and understanding of  the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) and does nothing in bringing clarity to the current situation for your readers with respect to rail opportunities.
Had your writer done any research they would find the ICF is not a ‘failed experiment’ but a resilient organization that must manage the political and local interests of 14 First Nations, 14 municipalities and five regional districts plus dealing with the federal and provincial governments as well as critics with other agendas. While the City of Langford has its own interest of controlling the corridor between Victoria and Langford and would like to see the corridor divided up, the ICF is responsible to the Island communities as a whole.
It was some of the current directors who brought First Nations and cities together and negotiated the $1 agreement with CPR to ensure the E&N would remain one continuous corridor. Successive ICF Boards have been responsible in attracting an excellent rail company to manage rail operations; to have trails constructed on many parts of the corridor; is working to ensure the heritage stations are in good repair; negotiated a new train service agreement with VIA Rail; had federal, provincial and regional funding approval for passenger rail upgrades between Victoria and Courtenay; and has operated the Foundation with no taxpayer contributions.
The ICF and Southern Rail presented Transportation Minister Trevena with a new rail services and track infrastructure plan that would include freight, VIA passenger inter-city service, a tourist excursion train between Nanaimo and Victoria, the potential for a commuter bud car service between Victoria and Langford and an estimate of track improvements.
The new approach of focusing on Nanaimo to Victoria allows for rail improvements to be made while being sensitive to the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation claim at Nanoose for the short portion of track that passes through the reserve.
As this is a new government the ICF and our rail company wanted to know what direction the government would be taking before spending funds on detailed applications.  Southern Rail has also been expanding its trans-loading business and plans to invest several millions of dollars in their rail barge landing ramp.
The answer; the government intends to undertake another study.  While it is the government’s prerogative this is not necessary as there was a very thorough Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure study, ($500K) completed in 2009 which is still relevant today. That report suggested an incremental approach to be a prudent manner to determining the long term viability of Island rail.
The opportunity for rail service exists as long as the track isn’t ripped up and there is a competent rail operator. But time is running out for what still could be a cost effective remediation.
Regardless of what another government study might determine, the ICF will continue to work with government to ensure the corridor remains as one continuous corridor.
There is much debate about this little railroad and constructive informed criticism is always useful, but poorly researched editorials like your November 28th editorial is not.
Dr. Judith Sayers                                      Mayor Phil Kent
Chair                                                           Vice – Chair
Times Colonist Full article

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