Railway Facts And A Professional Plan Are Important

By Graham Bruce
When Native and municipal leaders came together to protect and acquire the E&N Railway corridor they understood the complexity of the task at hand.
In forming the Island Corridor Foundation they created a structure that could accept the land transfer from CPR and work to achieve eight objectives one of which is ‘to contribute to safe and environmentally sound passenger and freight rail services along the Railroad’.
The ICF realized the necessity to have a capable short line rail operator to manage railroad operations. To their credit the ICF was able to engage Southern Railway of British Columbia (SRY), one of the best short line operators in North America.
A subsidiary of SRY, Southern Rail of Vancouver Island (SVI) worked with ICF to develop an overall long term infrastructure plan that forecasted a $100 million cost for upgrades to the line.
Discussions with the provincial and federal governments lead to the BC ministry of transportation commissioning a study to review the necessary upgrades and the potential for passenger and freight growth.
The report concluded there was potential but that the ICF should take an incremental approach to infrastructure investment while improving rail service and building demand.
With the professional services of SVI, the ICF developed a $15 million infrastructure plan and improved VIA Rail passenger schedule as phase I of improving rail service and building demand. The plan was released in October 2010 and submitted to the federal and provincial governments.
$10,565,000 would replace approximately 104,000 ties and 974 switch ties; $2,364,000 for ballast, lift (average 2”), tamp, re-line, regulate and trim complete Victoria subdivision, and Wellcox spur; $920,000 for removal and replacement of full toe joint bars with good relay toeless style bars complete with new track bolts, nuts and heavy spring washers; $651,000 bridge re-decking and $500,000 for an engineering inspection and assessment of 48 railway bridges between Victoria and Courtenay.
In June of  2011 Premier Christie Clark announced the $7.5 million provincial contribution and the unconditional release of the $500,000 necessary to complete the bridge and trestle engineering audit.
The bridge and trestle engineering audit will be complete by mid February of 2012. The report will detail the current weight loading for each structure, what will be required to bring each structure to a freight weight rating and, maintenance and capital necessary over 10, 20 and 30 years to maintain the structures.
The phase I plan for passenger service improvements released in October 2010 and presented to VIA Rail described the home terminus to be moved to Nanaimo. This would allow for an early morning southbound train to Victoria before the 8am run to Courtenay, returning in the afternoon to Victoria with a late afternoon train back to Nanaimo.
Ridership on the Malahat VIA train had experience a 10% growth over the last three years of operation despite the general public opinion that it was operating in the wrong direction.
VIA Rail is considering the new schedule and the additional gross operating cost of approximately $500,000. Increased passenger revenues are expected to cover the additional operation cost.
VIA Rail has committed a new three car train that includes a baggage car with the capacity to carry bicycles and a small refreshment galley.
This new train could be available in late spring if the federal government approves the $7.5 million funding application soon.
Barring any unforeseen ‘red flags’ in the bridge and trestle report a concerted effort will be undertaken for a timely federal funding decision.
Over the past several years the ICF Board of Directors has worked hard to meet the varied objectives of the Foundation and to evolve into an efficiently run organization while managing competing demands and interests.
For more information about the ICF, phase II plans and freight opportunities, the new Nanaimo Station, trail building plans along the corridor and to sign up as a ‘Friend of the Corridor’  Islanders can go to www.islandrail.ca .
Graham Bruce is the Chief Operating Officer of the Island Corridor Foundation and a former Minister of Municipal Affairs 1991 and Minister of Labour 2001

3 thoughts on “Railway Facts And A Professional Plan Are Important

  1. I think what the ICF needs is another 3 car RDC set to supplement the one being rebuilt back east. I dont think one set will be enough to handle any future demand.

  2. Hi,
    It’s great to finally see this website improved!
    Please join in to the Facebook group, as all of the members are actively interested in seeing the progress, and can offer help directly.
    When you are using federal money, these are PUBLIC FUNDS and any organization who uses public funds needs to disclose how it gets used.
    … There are lots of people in the facebook group who are happy to share ideas, so questions can be answered directly.
    As i go through the list of other ICF Directors, these are unknown people, and we can’t tell who is involved, so we can’t talk to our local representative and get our questions answered.
    Please use the free technology which is already available, and join in to the facebook group so everyone can help. It’s much more practical than having an in-person open-house, as everyone has different schedules and this effects everyone on the Island…. we should not expect everyone interested in Victoria to go to Courtney just to be spoken AT … and not actually talked WITH.
    If The Harper Government sees that the people are interested, then there is more likely to get approval for funding, as well as if all of the local communities are aware that regional and local funding is needed, then they might be more accepting to allocating of funding.

  3. With the possible coal mine being built in the buckley bay area and the hopeful prospect of the company using a freight train I have another thought. We all know that trains are way more fuel efficient then trucks and with less of them on the inland island highway it would make us all alot safer, so why not build a new bigger, and FUNCTIONAL train yard in Courtenay, its the end of the line and there is unused land by the walmart industrial area. With a larger area for loading and unloading we could easily have a vehicle unloading facility, hopper unloading and with the right equipment even intermodal car unloading. I dont know the abilities of the rail ferry but why not use the ferry, the rail line and the equipment while we have the chance? Seems logical to me.

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