Public urged to lobby politicians for Island passenger rail deal

Public urged to lobby politicians for Island passenger rail deal


AUGUST 7, 2013
Via Rail operated passenger service on the Island E&N line, from Victoria to Courtenay, until March 2011.
The foundation that wants to restart passenger trains on Vancouver Island is appealing for the public’s help in lobbying for a deal to get the service back on track.
The Island Corridor Foundation launched a campaign Tuesday that calls on residents to write the prime minister, premier and provincial and federal transportation ministers to force Via Rail to end its “bad faith” negotiating tactics and sit down to hammer out a passenger rail deal, said executive director Graham Bruce.
“They are back there in Montreal and they are treating us like colonials,” Bruce said of Via Rail.
“You don’t engage in conversation or negotiation,” he said of Via. The foundation has “spent good time and money to put together this proposal, that you’ve basically asked for. Just respond to it then. It’s common courtesy.”
Frustration over long delays in restarting service appears to have boiled over in advance of an end-of-August deadline to reach a deal with Montreal-based Via Rail.
Via used to operate passenger trains on the 223-kilometre Island E&N line, from Victoria to Courtenay, before unsafe track conditions forced it to stop in March 2011.
Since then, the Island Corridor Foundation has negotiated more than $18 million in federal, provincial and regional funding to upgrade track safety.
But the money is contingent on signing a new deal with Via Rail.
After months of negotiation, the Island Corridor Foundation’s private operator, Southern Railway of B.C., submitted a proposal in April that would give it control of the train schedule, allow for special train deployments, limit Via’s losses on the line and increase service by 50 per cent, said Bruce.
Four months have gone by without a reply, said Bruce.
“It would seem to me, if [negotiations are] in good faith, you would respond to that,” he said.
The Island Corridor Foundation is a charity run on behalf of local governments and First Nations. It took ownership of the E&N line in 2006 after it was donated by Canadian Pacific Railway and Rail America.
Bruce said the foundation can hold together its municipal, regional, provincial and federal partners only until the end of August, before it starts to lose co-operation and track conditions deteriorate further.
As the Crown corporation responsible for rail service, Via Rail has a responsibility to the Island, said Bruce.
B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone promised last month to appeal to his federal counterpart to push Via into action. But he has yet to do that, his office said Tuesday.
Via Rail was unavailable for comment, but has previously said it would only restart service if there are no additional costs.
Bruce said he hopes Island rail enthusiasts, whose outcry helped secure provincial and federal funding, can rise up again to force Via Rail back to negotiating. The foundation is listing government contact information at
If a deal can’t be reached this month, Bruce said the line may have to be decommissioned. He has tried writing letters to Via’s chairman and chief executive, but also received no response.
It’s frustrating to watch years of work, and millions in funding, jeopardized, he said.
“I don’t think Vancouver Island should be treated with the offhand colonial view.”
© Copyright 2013

One thought on “Public urged to lobby politicians for Island passenger rail deal

  1. Please help us help you. Please post the email addresses of those in municipal, regional, provincial and federal governments (and ?) so that we can more easily send the necessary emails. The TC article said the contact information was available on this website. I am looking for it and cannot find it. I have the time and attention right now to send my messages, but cannot find all the pieces I need.
    Thank you 🙂

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