Work continues towards commuter-rail service on Vancouver Island

Capital region mayors remain optimistic about the prospects for commuter-rail service on the E&N Rail corridor from Langford to Vic West, despite a pending change in the provincial government.
Langford Mayor Stewart Young said he expects the project to receive strong consideration, whether the existing Liberal government survives or falls to a new NDP-Green alliance.
“I know the NDP support the E&N,” he said. “Pretty well every government has.”
Young stressed the need for a strong business case for the project, no matter which party takes power.
“We’ve got to be really making sure that we have a good understanding of what we think the ridership will be, because that really dictates how much of a subsidy the government gives,” he said.
B.C. Liberal Transportation Minister Todd Stone launched a working group in March to look at options for the 15-kilometre stretch of track and report back following the May 9 election.
“I have said I expect a business case to be completed and on our desks, ready for the next government to consider, so that we can finally move forward with commuter rail here in Greater Victoria,” Stone said at the time.
The Liberals, however, fell one seat short of a majority in the 87-seat legislature, winning 43 seats to 41 for the NDP and three for the Greens. B.C. Liberal Premier Christy Clark remains in power for now, but NDP Leader John Horgan and B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver signed an accord last week to defeat the Liberals and install an NDP minority government once the legislature returns, likely this month.
Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, who ran unsuccessfully for the Liberals in Esquimalt-Metchosin, said the E&N commuter-rail project will be in good hands no matter who forms the government. “The NDP, having been here for a long period of time and representing us, know that this is a significant issue,” she said. “It would be a low-hanging fruit, early win for them.”
Desjardins said it also bodes well that both Horgan and Weaver represent ridings on southern Vancouver Island. Horgan was re-elected in Langford-Juan de Fuca, while Weaver won a second term in Oak Bay-Gordon Head.
“It’s my hope that they really focus some attention to the lower Island and particularly the E&N,” Desjardins said.
“Much of the work has been done in terms of costing.”
Horgan said last week that an NDP minority government would focus on Island issues in ways that the Liberals did not.
“I know the Island Corridor Foundation and E&N corridor is one that I feel very strongly about and have been working on for a decade. I’m going to be focusing on that, for sure.”
The NDP’s election platform promised that the party would “lead and promote efforts to fix the E&N railway tracks so that commuter rail can become an option to eliminate gridlock.”
The B.C. Green Party’s Adam Olsen, who won the riding of Saanich North and the Islands, urged action on the corridor.
“The E&N rail line is one … that should have been done a long time ago,” he said during the campaign.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said transportation is the biggest challenging facing the region.
“How do we move more people, more quickly around the region, particularly as the population continues to grow? So the train is an answer, rapid bus is an answer, bike lanes are an answer, but the train definitely needs to be part of it and, hopefully, we’ll see that commitment continue.”
Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton is also optimistic.
“My expectation would be, regardless of who forms government, that the opportunities of utilizing the E&N railline are not studied to death, but looked at realistically as a solution to a number of issues facing the South Vancouver Island commuters,” she said.
Passenger service ceased on the E&N line in March 2011 due to safety concerns with the tracks.
lkines@timescolonist.com

LINDSAY KINES, VICTORIA TIMES COLONIST
Lindsay Kines, Victoria Times Colonist

3 thoughts on “Work continues towards commuter-rail service on Vancouver Island

  1. I live in Qualicum Beach which has a majority of elder citizens who need more public transportation as many do not drive private cars anymore. The train is more comfortale for older citizens as one does not have to change, like buses.
    I would like to see the Victoria to Courtenay line restarted with better passenger schedules which would increase ridership.
    I look forward to one day riding the train again as I used to enjoy before.
    I would suggest that every citizen who is in favor of restarting train service write to their government representatives–Federal, Provincial, Municipal, to encourage them to support this venture. Either we do it now, or lose it forever!
    Thank you,

  2. VIA has no obligation to supply rail transport on Vancouver Island.. This is plan from The Minister of Transport in Ottawa. However the E&N is a provincially owned rail line and plans for commuter rail from Qualicum to Chemainus or Duncan are projected. Since C.P. let the 99 year lease lapse and VIA being an inter-city service it cannot lease track from a provincial chartered railway. The E&N remains part of the 1982 Constitution and is covered by legislation in Ottawa. In 2008 Premier Gordon Campbell asked Southern Railway of B.C. based in New Westminster to supply rail services to Vancouver Island. The railway made a deal from public pressure. B.C. will build Skytrain from Surrey to Langley if Southern lets B.C. build commuter rail from Victoria to Langford. This keeps passenger rail off the leased B.C.Hydro track in the Fraser Valley. So the corridor runs from Chilliwack to New West owned by B.C. and leased by B.C. Southern. In June there will be a new ferry service from New West to Surrey. From there a connection to Victoria harbour and a commuter rail connection to the island thru Victoria the largest city. Now the E&N has freight service and commuter rail service. The new line Canada 150 Historically, The Terms of Union now in the Constitution joins B.C. by rail to stay in Confederation and B.C has done her work. Over all Qualicum will see much better rail service in the future with shorter runs of commuter rail and not the once a day pill passenger service of VIA.

    1. Hi Bryan – Via would not supply the equipment for a commuter service. At this time a commuter service would be from Langford to Victoria only.

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