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. (CHRIS BUSH/News Bulletin)

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. (CHRIS BUSH/News Bulletin)

Province to fund assessment of rail line, including Ladysmith area

Ministry of Transportation to work with Island Corridor Foundation, First Nations on E&N rail study

Plans are afoot to evaluate track conditions for Vancouver Island’s main rail line to determine if train service could return.

The Island Corridor Foundation – a non-profit owning the E&N corridor with rail line that runs through Nanaimo from Victoria to Courtenay and Parksville to Port Alberni, with stops in both Ladysmith and Chemainus – was part of a Dec. 10 meeting with local and provincial governments and First Nations to discuss the rail line’s the fate. In an e-mail, the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said the government committed to “an updated engineering assessment of the corridor,” which it will lead along with First Nations and ICF.

Money for the work will come from the province, but details of the assessment are still in discussion and no dollar amounts are currently available, the ministry said. Passenger service was discontinued in 2011 due to poor track conditions.

Alec McPherson, Regional District of Nanaimo representative on the ICF board, was at the meeting and said there is potential in passenger rail service from Nanaimo to Victoria again. It is dependent on cost however, as he estimates repair work could be in the “hundreds of millions.”

“That is going to be the thing is what the costs estimates are and how much can you move forward … how do you continue to pay for maintenance?” said McPherson. “You need to be able to get revenue coming in whether it’s from freight, whether it’s from your tourism, whatever, that is sufficient to maintain those tracks and not just let them deteriorate by five or seven per cent every year. So there’s a lot of moving parts in this, a lot of moving parts, and so it will be interesting. The first step is to get this study that everybody can read and agree upon to say, OK, now this sounds right.”

Larry Stevenson, new ICF CEO, said getting an assessment is important given there are a “multitude” of figures out there for cost of track improvements. He said he’s seen one study that estimates it at $200 million.

“There’s been a bunch of numbers floated back and forth, but one of the things that’s readily apparent, is that there is no vision as to what this thing is that’s been agreed upon by anybody,” said Stevenson.

“I went out and did town halls across the Island and people were very quick to say, ‘Well where’s your business plan?’ and my response to that always was, you can’t do a business plan on something [if] you don’t know what you’re going to do. My struggle here is the numbers are so different depending upon what you build and what you want.

“Until you get to a shared vision as to what it is we’re actually going to build, and when I say shared vision, I mean a vision that’s been shared with province and the stakeholders as to what’s required, you can’t really put a price tag on it.”

Speaking on behalf of the ministry, Mitzi Dean, MLA for Esquimalt-Metchosin who sees the line running through her riding, said an assessment is important.

“It’s a really valuable asset and it’s so unique,” said Dean, adding that a railway is a difficult thing to quantify. “What we want to do is go through due process so we have a really good assessment so that we make good, well-informed decisions that meet the transportation needs of communities across the Island as a result of this assessment.”

Stevenson said he will meet with ministry officials next week to set parameters of the assessment and move forward with putting a request for proposals together.

“I don’t expect this is going to take long,” said Stevenson. “This isn’t going to be a five-month study. This is going to be something that’s going to happen very quickly.”



reporter@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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

Just Posted

Transfer Beach Dippers have been taking to the waters of Transfer Beach as safely as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted photo)
‘Transfer Beach Dippers’ group finds community in the cold water

Dippers tend to dip at 6am, 8:45am, or 6pm at Transfer Beach

John Ambrose Seward, 33, is described as Indigenous and five-foot-eight with short black hair and brown eyes. (Police handout)
John Ambrose Seward, 33, is described as Indigenous and five-foot-eight with short black hair and brown eyes. (Police handout)
High-risk sex offender banned from central Island, living in Vancouver: police

John Ambrose Seward, 33, has been released from prison under a number of conditions

Chemainus Theatre facilities manager Damion Knight at the spot inside the gallery and gift shop where thieves smashed a window and grabbed masks. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Unique masks valued at $1,000 stolen from Chemainus Theatre Gallery

Thieves smash a window and grab the goods early Monday morning

Firefighters, including those from Cranberry volunteer department, are battling a blaze in the Nanaimo River Road area. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Dwelling destroyed, two taken to hospital after Nanaimo River Road blaze

Numerous fire departments and first responders at south Nanaimo area

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
B.C. man finds men who rescued him from drowning in Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person, when the pandemic ends

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards South Island film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

Nanaimo RCMP are asking for the public’s help in identifying the man suspected of being involved in a stabbing. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP trying to identify stabbing suspect who wielded rusty knife

Stabbing followed argument between two men at Port Place Shopping Centre April 1

Most Read