Plans to reinstate rail service on the E&N Railway are chugging along.
The Island Corridor Foundation is hosting a series of seven town halls to give Island residents an update on the railway and to hear what they have to say about it.
The foundation’s chief executive, Larry Stevenson, said the foundation has also been meeting with the province and Premier John Horgan to get plans in motion for the reinstatement of rail service.
“We’re trying to get trains back and running on the Island,” Stevenson said. “What the town halls are for is we felt it was time to get in front of people and talk a bit about who we are, what we do … and the approach that we’re taking in trying to get rail restored.”
Three town halls have already taken place in Duncan, Langford and Courtenay, and Stevenson said the turnout has been positive with many people asking what they can do to help.
Stevenson said right now, he is in the middle of talks with the province to see what they need in order to start planning, but generating discussion and engagement amongst communities will help.
“[The premier] is looking to us to come up with a reasonable package for him,” Stevenson said. “He’s been frustrated by a lack of movement but I think the time is right with all of the traffic issues we’re having. He’s ready to move forward and it’s really incumbent upon us to give him all the reasons to say yes.”
Restoring rail to the Island comes with a hefty price tag of about $150 million dollars, but Stevenson said it doesn’t all have to be spent at once.
He said the foundation is looking to get started on an incremental basis. If they get the green light, Stevenson said it is “almost guaranteed” that rail service between Langford and Victoria will be implemented first.
“It’s a consistent sore point for people on the Island, it seems to have the most need,” Stevenson said.
But before anything can be set in motion, Stevenson said the province, municipalities, First Nations groups and foundation need to have a shared vision of what will happen.
Stevenson said the town halls will hopefully educate the public and help gain their support.
“We’re going to get this done,” Stevenson said. “I think this is probably the best opportunity we’ve had in the last five years.”
More town hall meetings are scheduled for Esquimalt, Nanaimo, Parksville and Port Alberni this month.