Larry Stevenson said he isn’t surprised there’s no funding earmarked in the province’s budget for 2019 for restoring the Island’s railways.
Stevenson, CEO of the Island Corridor Foundation which owns the 220-kilometre E&N rail corridor, said nothing was expected for that purpose in the budget, which was announced on Feb. 19.
“The province has told us that the assessment of track and bridge conditions on the rail corridor would take until the end of October to complete, so we’re not really surprised by this,” he said.
“The funding for the study itself was already budgeted years ago, and that money still exists to be used for that purpose. We don’t know how to get through to the government about how important this (rail restoration) project is, but they are the ones writing the cheques.”
Stevenson raised concerns about the slow pace the province was taking into the timelines around the study of bridge conditions on the rail corridor last month.
He said that, with a federal election scheduled for October, if there are no plans and financial requests ready to be handed in to Ottawa by mid-June of this year, plans for the railway would likely have to be put on hold until sometime after the election.
In response, a statement from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said that in order to explore the feasibility of investing in rail along the rail corridor, an up-to-date and in-depth track and bridge assessment is necessary, and it won’t be rushed.
After almost 15 years of planning and discussions about restoring rail traffic to the Island, hopes were high that it could soon happen after Premier John Horgan and Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Clair Trevana held a meeting in December on the issue with almost every mayor, regional district chairman and First Nations from all along the E&N rail line, as well as representatives from the ICF.
Stevenson said the ICF will continue moving forward with plans to advocate for the restoration of the rail line as soon as possible.
He said those plans will be announced in the coming weeks.
“We’re still in the early phases of developing those plans,” he said.
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