Editorial: Time for final decision on Island rail was years ago

As it has skilfully managed to do for many years now, the Island Corridor Foundation finds itself in the news.

Remember the Dayliner?

Passenger service on the old E&N passenger rail service was mothballed in 2011, due to deteriorating rail ties and a variety of other concerns. Seven years later… nothing.

There’s been all kinds of proclamations and bureaucratic ramblings and PR splashes and… nothing. Plans to raise money and promises of conditional government funding and… nothing. Endless reports and cost analysis and expert opinions offered and… nothing.

The latest attempt at remaining in the public eye was Thursday, when the ICF, and it’s newly installed CEO, Larry Stevenson, staged a town hall-style meeting in Parksville. Nearly 200 people attended, surprising even the CEO himself.

“It was the largest turnout we’ve had so far for our town hall meetings,” said Stevenson. “I set these meetings up because I felt it was time the ICF get out there and get in front of people. There’s a lot of information out there and unfortunately not all of it is accurate.”

At least this time there was an apparent change in tack for the foundation.

“It’s no secret that the foundation had been kind of a closed door for some time,” said Stevenson. “It’s a first step of doing a better job of communicating with the public.”

OK, that’s great. But what does it mean? Are we looking at some actual progress here, or is it just another trip down a dead-end sidetrack?

A report in 2015 that the then-$15 million allocated for track improvements along the approximately 289-kilometre E&N corridor was probably not enough for the railway to operate in a safe manner.

Surely getting things up and running in 2019 or beyond isn’t going to be any cheaper.

To revive the rail service, Stevenson said, the provincial and federal governments needs to help with subsidies, similar to what they’re doing for the roads, buses and ferries.

Again, we’ve heard this all before – and various levels of government have at least offered token promises of funding. What’s new here? How much will it cost taxpayers? Is there a new business plan? Or are we just dragging it out even further by apparently starting all over?

This isn’t a condemnation of the idea of rail on the Island. There are pros and cons on both sides of that coin.

What we’re tired of is endlessly going in circles and… nothing. The time for a final decision on this matter was years ago.

Wake us up if something actually happens.

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