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

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

This photo of Cheryl-Lynn Townsin and her daughter, Lexi, is part of Townsin’s documentary, RARE HUMANS - Turning Hope into Action, her capstone project for her graduate degree from Royal Roads University. (Photo courtesy of Cheryl-Lynn Townsin)
Greater Victoria mother’s grief fuels documentary of ‘Turning Hope into Action’

Lexi, 6, died in 2019 from Blau Syndrome and is among the children documented

This dead fir tree is one of many in Mount Douglas Park. Nine dead trees will be removed from the Douglas Creek site starting March 8 to make way for the construction of a new pedestrian bridge. (Photo courtesy Jason Clarke)
Nine dead, hazardous trees to be removed from Saanich park ahead of bridge construction

Felling begins March 8, minor trail interruptions expected in Mount Douglas Park

A survey by Statistics Canada finds Black Canadians earn less than non-visible minority Canadians despite having higher levels of education. (The Canadian Press file photo)
COVID-19 worsened unemployment picture for Black Canadians

Black Canadians also more likely to suffer other hardships

The City of Victoria filed a petition with the Supreme Court of B.C. March 2 to have it clarify whether, under the Trustee Act, Beacon Hill Park can be used for temporary sheltering. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria asks court to clarify if Beacon Hill Park can be used for sheltering

City of Victoria filed petition to Supreme Court of B.C. March 2

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

Most Read