MOT Releases Rail Corridor Study

The Ministry of Transportation released the following today:


VICTORIA – The Province and the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) have released a study that evaluates the economic potential and identifies future opportunities for the E&N rail line, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Shirley Bond announced today.

“The E&N railway has been an important component of the transportation network on Vancouver Island for 130 years,” said Bond. “We’ve worked with the Island Corridor Foundation to determine what conditions and economic circumstances need to be in place for the rail line to be successful in the future.”

The E&N Rail Line Study will assist the ICF with its business planning. The study concludes the future success of the E&N rail line is dependent on a number of factors, including:

  • Increased population growth and transit-oriented development near the E&N corridor.
  • Increased industrial and commercial development along the E&N rail corridor that would benefit from rail.
  • Improved economic conditions, particularly in forestry, mining and tourism.
  • Transit service improvements and connections in communities near the E&N rail line.

The comprehensive study looked at the costs and viability of upgrading the entire E&N rail line for freight and passenger travel. The joint study, overseen by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in consultation with the ICF, included a market assessment for freight, passengers, excursion and commuter rail demand, as well as an evaluation of infrastructure condition.

The study evaluated the cost to improve major sections of the line to support specific markets, as well as considering a full-corridor upgrade. It concluded current volumes of freight and passengers do not support significant infrastructure investment at this time.

“The challenge for us is maintaining the rail while we find ways to improve passenger service and attract more freight traffic on the system,” said ICF co-chair Judith Sayers.

“We will now take an incremental approach by looking at smaller, targeted improvements along the corridor, should appropriate economic development opportunities arise,” added ICF co-chair Mary Ashley.

The E&N corridor is approximately 289 kilometres long, running between Victoria and Courtenay with connections between Parksville and Port Alberni and to the Nanaimo waterfront.

The railway is owned by the Island Corridor Foundation and operated under contract by the Southern Railway of Vancouver Island.

The ICF is a partnership of First Nations, five regional districts and 14 municipalities. The governments of British Columbia and Canada assisted in the creation of the ICF by facilitating the receipt of E&N lands to the foundation through a donation by CP Rail.

The study can be found at or at



  • In 2008, the B.C. government committed $5 million to provide property tax relief along the E&N railway and to fund a key study of rail options on southern Vancouver Island.
  • The Province eliminated $4.5 million of taxes owed by the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) when it acquired the railway corridor.
  • In 2008, the ICF identified the need for $104 million to rehabilitate and upgrade the E&N corridor to North American freight standards.
  • In response, the Province committed $500,000 to study the costs and viability of upgrading the entire E&N Rail Line for freight and passenger travel. The study was initiated in May 2009 with the ICF as a member of the steering committee given its ownership of the railway.
  • The study consists of two phases:
    • Phase 1: A market assessment for freight, passenger, excursion and commuter rail demand, as well as an evaluation of infrastructure condition. The report concluded that current freight and passenger volumes do not support a $100-million infrastructure investment at this time.
    • Phase 2: Development strategies to assist the Island Corridor Foundation with future business planning and identifying opportunities for the rail corridor.
  • Through consultation, the ICF, municipalities along the corridor, regional districts, and BC Transit were involved in the study, as well as the public through a series of open houses along the rail corridor.
  • The E&N study links to Victoria Regional Rapid Transit Study led by BC Transit.
    • The initial Victoria Regional Rapid Transit Project assessed the E&N corridor for rapid transit potential. While the corridor was found to have some advantages, rapid transit along the Island Highway, Trans Canada Highway and Douglas Street serves more regional destinations, more people and work places.
    • The ministry evaluated the E&N corridor for a potential commuter rail service and concluded the estimated travel demand and high cost to implement make it a significant challenge at this time.


2 thoughts on “MOT Releases Rail Corridor Study

  1. Very interesting to see your site. We visited Canada and stayed with relatives in Duncan last year. Where we live in the UK, near Portsmouth, I can catch a fast train to work in the City for less than the cost of car parking for the day. Trains run every 10 minutes and it makes finnacial sense to leave the car at home.
    Whilst the pace of life in Canada seemed to us, at least, to be less hectic, it was strange that the service on the dayliner sets out from the wrong end and time, if its ever going to be used by commuters. I understand about the lack of infrastructure but being a visitor to the area, and interested in trains, we found the site of the dayliner to be delightful.
    I did buy a book on Vancouver Island railroads which is very interesting.
    From this distant place I wish you all the best in preserving the line and perhaps….reopening to Port Alberni. I really liked the trestles across Cameron Lake.
    Good Luck

  2. I must agree with our visitor from the UK. I have spent summer vacations on the Island for several decades and have always wondered why the passenger train travels north away from the larger centre in the morning. I have many, many times spoken to visitors from abroad, while vacationing up island, would have loved to take a train to Victoria in the morning only to realize that they could not. As for commuting, obviously the bulk of potential commuters would prefer to travel to Victoria in the a.m. .
    As for incremental improvements, it seems to me that a revised schedule of trains to Victoria in the early morning, especially from south of Nanaimo, would give travelers better reason to take the train to and from Victoria rather than their vehicles. In this geographical area, incremental improvements could be made to infrastructure to improve running times.
    As for major increases in freight, much obviously hinges on the potential of coal from the new mines near Courtenay. Obviously there would need to be a lot of potential freight to support the vast improvements in infrastructure although speed over a short distance is somewhat less important that than track integrity.

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