The Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) is feeling optimistic about the chances of rail lines being reactivated in the Capital Region.
In an Esquimalt council meeting earlier this week, ICF CEO Larry Stevenson addressed council with an update as the province completes its ongoing assessment. The ICF is a non-profit organization which owns and manages the former E&N Railway line, which stretches approximately 290 km. It is not in charge or participating in the provincial assessment.
Stevenson added that when the province first committed to an assessment in February he was skeptical, but after watching surveyors come in his opinion changed.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” he said. “I was pleasantly surprised when they were bringing in people to do the assessment; these are CP [Canadian Pacific Rail] people, these are people who have worked in rail for 40 years.”
The E&N line, which officially shut down on the Island in 2011, has had 12 studies done on it over the years.
“I’m convinced this is the most researched track in North America,” Stevenson said. “There’s so many numbers in these reports, it causes confusion.”
Stevenson thinks the large amount of data gives the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure “analysis paralysis” from information surplus.
Regardless, public input from across the Island has been in support of the railway line; in February, all 13 mayors from the CRD penned a letter to Premier John Horgan and Transportation Minister Claire Trevena asking the province to commit funding to rail service in the Capital Region.
Shortly after, the province announced it would commit to a six-month study into the corridor to determine costs, safety requirements, seismic risk assessments and rock fall review.
“The assessment will encompass a high-level identification of infrastructure requirements and cost upgrades needed to allow the operation of a commuter rail from Langford to Victoria,” said the province in a statement in February.
The study is set to be complete by the end of the year.
“We’re hopeful that we’re not just kicking the can down the road,” Stevenson said. ” We believe rail must play a key role in any integrated transportation systems on the Island… this has to be a rail, transit and ferry solution.”
Stevenson believes the costs associated with reactivating the rail system would fall well below what’s being paid in Surrey to create a new 10 km stretch of light rail line, which is facing a nearly $2 billion bill. One of the more costly expenses in the Capital Region would be crafting a new station at the Victoria end of the infrastructure in Vic West.