The Province of B.C. has committed to work with the Island Corridor Foundation and First Nations to do an assessment of the E&N rail corridor, which encompasses an area that includes Victoria, Courtenay and Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file)

Vancouver Island First Nation calls for repurposing of E&N rail line

Suggestion: ‘A level, accessible, paved trail that connects communities and promotes recreation’

A mid-Island First Nation is calling for the repurposing of the E&N Railway Corridor, saying there is no business case for the investment necessary to reopen the rail line.

“How about the East Coast Trail? A level, accessible, paved trail that connects communities and promotes recreation? Despite several funding proposals, the Island Corridor Foundation has been unable to secure the financial investment needed to rehabilitate the track,” read a May 5 release from the Snaw-Naw-As (Nanoose) First Nation, based between Nanaimo and Parksville.

This comes after a pair of recent estimates about the cost of reopening – a report from the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure assessing the cost at $700 million and a lower number of $254 million from the CEO of the Island Corridor Foundation, Larry Stevenson. The ICF owns the line, which stretches 220-kilometres from Victoria to Courtenay. Passenger service halted in 2011 due to concerns around track safety, while freight service continues sparingly on Vancouver Island.

Fifty per cent of the board seats on the ICF are represented by Indigenous Nations, with the corridor running through 14 First Nation territories, including Snaw-Naw-As.

READ MORE: Realistic figure to get Vancouver Island rail up and running $254 million: CEO

READ MORE: Island Rail Corridor needs $700 million in upgrades to get back on track

Brent Edwards, a Snaw-Naw-As council member, said the purpose of the ICF is to protect the corridor and using the land for a purpose other than rail could achieve that. The Snaw-Naw-As currently has a civil lawsuit before the courts against the ICF and the Attorney General of Canada, asking for the return of land that they say was wrongfully taken away from them when the railway was initially built.

“We’ve had numerous First Nations that are part of the Island Corridor Foundation support our position and despite of that, they keep running amok, running ahead, saying ‘we’re going to get rail up and running one day,’” he said. “There’s a whole bunch of First Nations that would like to see it repurposed and that was the intent of the Island Corridor Foundation when it was set up was to protect the corridor and not have tunnel vision on rail.”

Edwards called the potential repurposing “the real opportunity.”

Stevenson said the purpose of the ICF is to reopen rail service, noting he would like to see trails developed as well as the rail line.

“The Island Corridor Foundation is very supportive of trails alongside the railway and in fact, we have built over 100 kilometres of trails on the Island and it’s our intent to continue building them in the future,” he said. “But we are still – the base of this organization is to restore train service to the Island.”

cloe.logan@pqbnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

LantzvilleParksvillerailwayvancouverisland

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

 

The province has completed a Request for Proposal process for a corridor assessment, according to the Island Corridor Foundation. - File photo

Just Posted

Province buys Paul’s Motor Inn to house Victoria’s homeless population

Inn is the second hotel the province has purchased to support vulnerable community

Telus headquarters to come to Victoria in ‘landmark building’ development

City sells land on coroner of Douglas and Humboldt streets for $8.1 million

Victoria man identified as victim in Thunder Bay murder

Police investigating after Paul Vivier, 29, discovered in hotel

Fire at Victoria hotel contained to one room, leaves 20 suites in need of remediation

Fire crews extinguished the blaze at the Comfort Inn in 12 minutes

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

Gold River organizes a shop local initiative to creatively boost economy

Local purchases can earn shoppers $200 gift certificates to be spent on businesses within Gold River

Young killer whale untangles itself from trap line off Nanaimo shore

DFO marine mammal rescue unit arrived as whale broke free from prawn trap line

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

B.C.’s Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics goes virtual

The annual event partnering RCMP with Special Olympians is dramatically altered by COVID-19

Vancouver Island school principal mourns family killed during US protests

Jelks says he’s grateful for the outpouring of support from the community in the wake of this tragedy

Most Read