Officials from the Island Corridor Foundation are scheduled to meet with the province’s new Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Clair Trevena on Nov. 9 to discuss the long-anticipated railway project.
There are growing concerns in the ICF, the non-profit organization that aims to restore rail service to the Island, that the new minister is planning to commission another study on the initiative and further delay the province’s financial commitment to invest in repairing the track on the railway corridor.
Phil Kent, the mayor of Duncan and vice-chairman of the ICF, said the intention of the meeting is to clarify the new government’s position on the planned upgrades and repairs to the rail line.
“We want to see what the government’s feelings are on the project,” he said.
“We’ll have more to say after the meeting.”
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Passenger train service on the E&N Railway line was stopped in 2011 due to track safety concerns, and freight service has also been discontinued between Duncan and Parksville.
The federal and provincial governments have committed $7.5 million each, on top of the funding from local governments, to fix the railway line.
But the ICF, which owns the increasingly dilapidated 220-kilometre rail line that stretches from Victoria to Courtenay, and Southern Railway, which runs the rail operations, have been facing delays from the senior levels of government as to when they plan to release the funding they’ve promised.
The ICF has been wading for years through the bureaucracy of numerous layers of governments and First Nations in its ongoing efforts to gather support and raise the money needed to restore train service on the Island but, despite commitments, hardly any senior government money has been forthcoming to date.
One reason for the delay is due to a civil lawsuit filed against the ICF and the Attorney General of Canada by the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation over the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway, which runs through its traditional territory.
The First Nation claims the land was wrongfully taken from it years ago to build the railway and is seeking to have it returned.
There is also a fear among some government officials that the cost estimates of repairing the tracks and the line are wildly out of sync with reality, and government would be stuck with skyrocketing costs if they commit to the project.