With a federal election looming in October, the head of the Island Corridor Foundation, Larry Stevenson, is not worried the drive to restore passenger train service on the Island would be derailed again.
“I really think that when you look at what we’re trying to accomplish and the reasons behind it, this is a public policy discussion,” said Stevenson. “It’s not going to go away no matter which government is sitting there. They’re going to have to deal with the issue. We’re now at the point where something is going to happen and I think it’s going to happen relatively soon.”
The province is currently undertaking an in-depth assessment of the track and bridge to determine the cost to bring the Island line back to standard.
Stevenson, who attended the recent Railway Days at the Parksville Museum, said the assessment is expected to be completed at the end of October.
“After that, I think, you’re going to see a move to get it rebuilt,” said Stevenson, who added that there is strong support on the Island to bring back the rail line.
“The people on the Island had made their intentions clear. They have been very clear about wanting it restored and they want it restored now. I don’t see it stopping.”
Stevenson stressed this issue is not a discussion about tomorrow, or next week. Traffic on the Island, he pointed out, is not going to get any better as the Island’s population continues to grow.
“That’s really where we need to centre our discussion,” said Stevenson. “Because if we think we have problems today, just imagine what we’re going to have 30 years from today. And this corridor, it should service the backbone, as an efficient transportation system. So this is a 30-year discussion. I keep pushing this toward public policy discussion because investment needs to be made today to make sure that we have it 30 years from today.”
Passenger train service was stopped in 2011 due to safety concerns, and freight service has also been discontinued on many parts of the Island.
If the railway line gets restarted, it will be done in stages, said Stevenson. And the first in line would be the south end of the corridor.
“We have to do this in pieces,” said Stevenson. “You’ll never going to go out and build the entire railroad in a week. I think obviously it’s going to start in the south, in Langford and Victoria because that’s where the biggest need is today. But then it’s going to march north. One of the things the ICF has long maintained is that you don’t get to do one without the other. It’s important to tie the whole Island together.”
The ICF, Stevenson said, is willing to work with the government and come up with a plan on what they would do for the entire Island.
“It’s no sufficient to say we’ll deal with Langford today and talk about the rest in 10 years,” said Stevenson. “That’s not going to work.”