A dayliner hasn’t been seen on the E&N line since 2011.

A dayliner hasn’t been seen on the E&N line since 2011.

Communities tire of waiting for E&N

Island Corridor Foundation asked to update North Cowichan council

North Cowichan isn’t the only municipality or government getting more than a little impatient, waiting for their train to arrive along the weedy rails of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway. For a growing number of people time has run out.

Take Bev Highton, for example, a Victoria letter writer to the Times Colonist, responding to a defense of the Island Corridor Foundation by View Royal Mayor David Screech.

The ICF maintains the E&N right of way and is working with adjacent municipalities, regional districts and First Nations trying to figure out what to do with the line, which hasn’t had anything but service vehicles running along most its length since 2011.

Highton agreed with the importance of preserving the line as a transportation corridor for the Island; she took umbrage with the ICF’s ‘ineffective and money and time consuming’ approach.

“There are any number of options for the use of the corridor that should be explored other than doing nothing, thinking that the provincial or federal governments will provide the funds to re-establish a train running the length of the corridor,” she said.

She adds, “perhaps a special, small, nimble, out-of-the-box-thinking type of planning committee should be established to come up with concepts and ideas for the use of the corridor as a valuable transportation right-of-way, rather than have it lying fallow and languishing in Never-Never Land.”

One group along the right of way, tired of what it sees as the ICF’s wrong-headed way of going about things, is going even farther.

In December the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation, north of Nanaimo, filed a suit against the ICF seeking the return of traditional land that was taken in the 20th Century for use by the railroad.

They argue that since the land is no longer used or needed for railway purposes, it should be returned for their own use from the ICF and the Southern Railway of Vancouver Island, the ‘operator’ of the ICF line.

The Snaw-Naw-As legal action has sidetracked the federal government’s $7.5 million share of $21 million pledged by senior and local levels of government for needed track upgrades – only a fraction of the $103 million needed to effectively repair the line.

It’s with that pot boiling that North Cowichan council has invited representatives of the Island Corridor Foundation and the Southern Railway to come and “provide Council with an update on the likelihood and timing of the resumption of freight and passenger rail service on Vancouver Island.”

As of early March, the invitation had not been taken up. Said North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure, “I can advise that invitations were sent to both Island Corridor Foundation and the Southern Railway of Vancouver Island to present at a future Council meeting. At this point, neither organization have responded to the requests.”