UPDATE: Province provides $7.5 million for passenger rail

Restoration of passenger rail service on Vancouver Island is a step closer following a $7.5 million investment from the B.C. government.

Premier Christy Clark

Restoration of passenger rail service on Vancouver Island is a step closer following a $7.5-million investment from the B.C. government.

Premier Christy Clark arrived at the Nanaimo train station on Selby Street Tuesday aboard a pair of Southern Vancouver Island Rail locomotives to make the announcement.

The funding is in two parts, with $7 million for track repair and $500,000 toward an engineering inspection of about 40 rail bridges and trestles on the line.

The $7 million is conditional on the Island Corridor Foundation raising an additional $7.5 million to complete essential repairs to the Island service.

Passenger rail service was shut down in April due to safety concerns arising from the deteriorating condition of the tracks, which were found to be far worse than anticipated during routine maintenance and inspection this spring. Island freight service continues, although with trains running at reduced speeds due to the condition of the tracks.

“It’s really important for people on the Island to have a passenger service for tourism, but also for freight,” said Clark. “We want to do what we can for people on the Island because it would be shortsighted to stop here and say there’s no more rail on Vancouver Island. We have to look a little bit further ahead than that.”

Clark said whether additional money gets spent on the rail service is up to the foundation and its business case.

“We’ll see what happens with the money we’ve committed now,” she said. “They can put together their plans and hopefully keep attracting new customers and that will tell us whether or not the railway is sustainable in the longer term. I believe it is, otherwise we wouldn’t have committed the seven and a half million dollars that we did today.”

Graham Bruce, ICF executive director, said the provincial commitment enables the foundation to embark on more comprehensive planning around passenger and freight service and he’s confident he will hear from the federal government on matching the $7.5 million.

“We know now we’re going to be here,” he said. “That [$15 million] secures the future and allows us as a foundation and Southern Rail to work co-operatively to really improve the rail service on the Island.”

Bruce said the foundation’s timeline requires federal support as soon as possible.

“We’ve been clear we needed an answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ by June. To maintain train service, we need [funding] now,” he said. “We had a provincial leadership race and a federal election, but we’re quite confident as these things work through we should hear from the federal component in the next couple weeks.”

James Lunney, Nanaimo-Alberni Conservative MP, said Ottawa was in on the file from the beginning and he knows how important it is to the community.

But funding challenges include the government’s economic action plan winding down and less money for infrastructure.

“There was tons of money over the last two years, but that’s all winding down,” he said. “The cruise ship terminal got money, the airport got money … this one got delayed for various reasons.

“We know how important it is, and while there’s more competition for those dollars, as long as there’s a dollar in infrastructure left, I’ll be pounding on the door to make sure it comes this way.”

The Island Corridor Foundation is a non-profit partnership representing a variety of Island municipalities, regional district and First Nations which has owned the rail infrastructure since 2006.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VicPD confirms wolf sighting in James Bay

Police ask that children and pets be taken inside

VIDEO: Furry, four-legged donors make their way to doggy blood drive in Langford

WAVES and Canadian Animal Blood Bank host blood drive for dogs

Annual Salmon Carcass Transplant draws Saanich residents to Douglas Creek

More than 100 frozen salmon tossed into the creek as part of ecological restoration

Colwood hosts open house on future of Royal Bay community

Event takes place on Jan. 22 at Royal Bay Secondary from 6 to 8 p.m.

WATCH: Police warn car break-ins are on the rise in Greater Victoria

Residents can ‘take precautions to make their vehicle undesirable,’ says VicPD spokesperson

‘Presumptive case’ of coronavirus in Canada confirmed by Ontario doctors

Man in his 50s felt ill on his return to Canada from Wuhan, China

VIDEO: Drone footage shows extent of damage in Highway 4 rockslide

Tofino, Ucluelet still cut off from rest of the island, as crews work to repair roadway

People knowingly take fentanyl so make policy changes to reduce harm: B.C. study

Dr. Jane Buxton, an epidemiologist at the centre, says drug users need more resources,

‘My heart is going to bleed’: Bodies brought back to Canada following Iran plane crash

Remains of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, were identified last weekend

UBC grad and sister killed in Iran plane crash had bright futures ahead, close friend says

Asadi-Lari siblings Mohammad Hussein and Zeynab were two of 57 Canadians aboard downed Flight PS752

BCLC opens novelty bet on Harry and Meghan moving to the west coast

Meanwhile, real estate agency points to four possible homes for the family

Canada slips in global corruption ranking in aftermath of SNC-Lavalin scandal

The country obtained a score of 77, which places it at the top in the Americas

Wuhan bans cars, Hong Kong closes schools as coronavirus spreads

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said her government will raise its response level to emergency, highest one

Most Read