Minister will speak with Via about Island railway

Island Corridor Foundation continues to press key issue

AUGUST 22, 2013
Rail advocates are counting on federal help to resume talks toward a passenger rail service agreement for Vancouver Island.
The Island Corridor Foundation submitted its rail agreement proposal to Via Rail in April.
An agreement is needed before track repairs can start, but Via Rail hasn’t responded.
Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt was in Nanaimo Monday, at the Association of Canadian Port Authorities annual conference ICF executive Graham Bruce met with Raitt at the Nanaimo ports conference.
“She told us government is supportive of sustaining rail on Vancouver Island,” Bruce said.
She may be new to the job, but Bruce said Raitt was “well briefed,” and knows about the $7.5 million funding commitment Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney got from Ottawa, for track and bridge repairs.
“She has not had a chance to meet with Via Rail on this (yet) but she said she would be meeting with them to discuss this with them,” Bruce said.
Bruce, who was the B.C. labour minister from 2001 to 2005, knows Crown corporations must conduct business at arm’s-length from government, but “those institutions need to pay attention to the direction government is looking to go, because they are created by government,” Bruce said.
Island passenger service ended in 2011, due to unsafe track conditions.
Since then Bruce pulled together a track and bridge repair fund worth $18 million, from provincial, federal and local governments. The work won’t start, however, until a new rail agreement is reached.
He recently described the state of negotiations as “very close to bad faith bargaining,” and wants help to restart talks.
“We just want the opportunity to negotiate a deal that makes sense for Vancouver Island.”
He said Raitt will deliver that message to Via “within the next several weeks.”
Bruce said ICF wants track repairs to start in winter, so even if an agreement is reached soon, time is tight to tender the construction project.


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