A segment of the Island Rail corridor, formerly known as the E&N Railway. File Photo

Trails lobby group says report proves the futility of Vancouver Island rail plan

The Friends of Rails to Trails Vancouver Island says study shows how much work line really needs

A Vancouver Island lobby group says a recent report on the cost of reviving Vancouver Island rail is a reminder that Island rail is an idea whose time has passed.

The Friends of Rails to Trails Vancouver Island (FORT-VI) — a group advocating non-motorized use of the corridor — says the study puts numbers on what was already known.

“The corridor infrastructure is in bad shape,” a FORT-VI news release states. “The numbers range from $1/4 billion for one slow train a day to almost $1 1/2 billion for four trains and a commuter service.”

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

The B.C. government intends to use a recent Transportation Ministry study of the Island Rail corridor to inform future decisions on investments in the corridor formerly known as the E&N, which is owned by the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF). The report includes cost estimates for frequent train service between Victoria and Langford, and inter-city service between Victoria and Courtenay. Via Rail halted passenger service in 2011 due to safety concerns with the track.

FORT-VI says the numbers have doubled in a decade since the last study, before paying for the trains, and for fare and maintenance subsidies.

“That is a ludicrous amount to pay to restore an old Victorian railway that will take five-and-a-half hours to get to Victoria after leaving Courtenay at 3 a.m. A decent regular bus service would do the trip two hours faster and for a fraction of the cost.”

FORT-VI says the rail bed could be converted to a multi-use trail, which would develop active transportation, and develop tourism in a more sustainable manner.

“In the post-COVID world we are heading for, there will be change. Our actions in the near future will determine whether the changes will lead to safer, more sustainable communities.”

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

ICF executive director LarryStevenson questions the costs and times quoted by FORT-VI.

“In our view, you can rehabilitate and reinstate rail service on the Island for somewhere between $260 million and $300 million,” he said. “We are certainly not going to support that initial phase (Victoria to Langford) because, as they correctly point out, the service levels aren’t going to support it. (But) Nobody’s talking about trains leaving Courtenay at 3 a.m.”

He said the actual scheduled time from Courtenay to Victoria is three hours and eight minutes.

Stevenson feels FORT-VI is not taking into account the Comox Valley seniors who have appointments in Victoria, or students who travel to Nanaimo.

He also notes the ICF supports trails along the railway.

“We developed over 100 kilometres of trails. It’s our hope that that is going to continue up and down the entire island.”

FORT-VI notes the study talks about upgrading parts of the line for freight. However, the group also notes the mines for which the railway was built are long gone, and the last logging railway shut down years ago.

The ICF is talking primarily about freight from the port of Port Alberni.

“You have a massive port sitting there that’s so under-utilized, it’s a shame,” Stevenson said. “There’s an opportunity here to bring freight into the port of Port Alberni. Take it across to Vancouver. It’s kind of a release valve for Vancouver, because Vancouver is so clogged.”

RELATED: Estimated $552M to restore Island rail leaves some scratching their heads

Once things are restored, Stevenson said excursion, tourist and inter-city trains can start to run on the Island.

“There’s a lot of things you can do, and you can build this business over the course of time. I know people would get on the train and go to Courtenay that otherwise wouldn’t go. Is it good for the City of Courtenay? I would suggest it probably is.”

For more news from the Island and beyond delivered directly to your email inbox, click here.

Just Posted

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal to hear blind community’s case against Victoria bus stops

The Canadian Federation of the Blind says bike lanes can be dangerous

Point-guard lobs no-look, three-pointer for Oak Bay High video

Trick-shot only took three times, says Oak Bay teen

Name of victims ‘ripped down’ from Victoria display

Organizers feel the act is ‘malicious’

EDITORIAL: It’s time for Canada to admit to its own racism

Make no mistake, racism exists in Canada.

Qualicum Beach man arrested over racist incident at Tseshaht First Nation

Port Alberni RCMP said the man turned himself in

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

Vancouver Island First Nations gather to remember woman fatally shot by police

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council requests an independent investigation

COVID-19: Garage sales should follow mass gathering guidelines

No specific restrictions against popular yard sales taking place

Port Hardy school sending food home to students in need

Hunger doesn’t take the weekend — or a pandemic — off

BCHL: Alberni Bulldogs trade veteran defenceman, acquire new players during offseason

Grayson Valente suited up for three seasons with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs

Nanaimo painter inspired by medieval animal illustrations in new exhibition

Yvonne Vander Kooi to unveil ‘Bestiary’ via Gallery Merrick live-stream

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

No lifeguards this summer for some popular Island swimming spots, no swimming at all for others

Fears of risk to health and safety during COVID-19 pandemic partly to blame

No architect for Langford building ruled ‘unreasonable’ by B.C. Supreme Court

Legal action brought against City in 2019 for permit issued on Hoffman Avenue building

Most Read