Head of steam building up over future of Vancouver Island train services

A head of steam is building up in the campaign to get passenger train services restored to the Courtenay-Victoria E&N rail line.
On Wednesday, Graham Bruce, chief executive of the line’s owners, the Island Corridor Foundation, stepped up the rhetoric in his demands for VIA Rail to “engage responsibly” in negotiating a new train service agreement.
Back in April, he said a comprehensive proposal to improve services had been presented
to VIA Rail after the Crown Corporation suggested it might consider an alternate train service plan. But Bruce said there has still been no reply to that proposal.
That silence was unacceptable, he added.
“Our operator entered into these discussions in good faith and has spent time and money to develop a train service that contemplated an increase in ridership, reduced VIA’s involvement, and limited the subsidy,” he commented. “For VIA to not bother to respond is very poor business practice and a slap to Islanders”.
He suggested that VIA Rail’s last known position was that it wanted to maintain the previous service agreement, while ICF’s operator was intent on providing an improved schedule. The past service involved a single daily train from Victoria to Courtenay and back again.
The proposed improved service schedules an early morning train from Nanaimo to Victoria and then the Victoria-Courtenay and back runs, with a late afternoon final trip from Victoria up to Nanaimo.
“The parties need to get in a room and hammer out the agreement,” Bruce added. “The federal, provincial and regional governments, Southern and ICF have all come to the table and now VIA needs to do their part in restoring passenger service to the Island”.
As previously reported in the Echo, the ICF is seeking an agreement by the end of August to allow a start on track and trestle repairs to get underway in November so passenger train services can resume next year.
More than $18 million required for those engineering works has already been pledged jointly by the federal and provincial governments and all the regional districts along the route -including Comox Valley Regional District. But the money is conditional on a passenger service agreement.
The Echo contacted VIA Rail for comment on its position, but did not receive a response by press time.
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