VIA not impressed by ICF's looming deadline

Via not impressed by ICF’s looming deadline


AUGUST 7, 2013
The Island Corridor Foundation says Via Rail must enter into a passenger-service agreement soon so work can begin this year to repair the aging tracks and infrastructure on the line.
Graham Bruce, executive director of the ICF, which owns the rail line, said all the “ducks are now in a row” in regards to financing and other aspects of the foundation’s efforts to repair the 289-kilometre line but the agreement with Via Rail must be in place before work can begin.
About $20 million in government money earmarked for repairs can’t be released unless there’s an agreement for service.
But Via won’t sign an agreement because the track and other infrastructure are in such poor condition.
The Victoria-Courtenay passenger service was deemed unsafe in early 2011. Via Rail spokesman Jacques C. Gagnon said the ICF’s deadlines are “internal” and do not play a part in the Crown corporation’s considerations.
Via’s primary concern is for the “safety and security” of both its passengers and employees, he said, and the rail line is not currently at the level of repair required to ensure that this is the case.
There have been a number of fatalities related to rail service on the Island in recent years, Gagnon said, so Via has liability concerns around entering into a new passenger rail agreement.
Via also is also concerned that there is no longer a train station in Victoria because it has been demolished.
“We’ve been handling rail service across the country for a long time and we are very aware of the ins and outs of what’s required to have a successful rail service in this country,” Gagnon said.
“The rail service (on Vancouver Island) has been operating in a deficit for some time and we are responsible to the nation’s taxpayers to ensure we are providing good management and financially responsible rail operations.”
Bruce said all these issues have been dealt with in the ICF’s submission to Via.
ICF board member Mary Ashley said an agreement is needed soon or the line may lose its operator, Southern Railway.
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