Nanaimo NDP MLAs hosting forum on Island rail

NANAIMO – Leonard Krog and Doug Routley believe passenger rail service will return to Vancouver Island.

Nanaimo’s two B.C. NDP MLAs believe passenger rail service will return to Vancouver Island.

Doug Routley, Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA, will co-host a community forum on the future of the E&N Railway with Leonard Krog (Nanaimo MLA) at Bowen Park Tuesday (July 7), between 7 and 9 p.m.

Routley said Island rail service is vital and the province can’t keep expanding highways. Restoring it and making it run in a way that supports commuter travel will be a wise investment for the present and the future.

However, Routley said it has to be done incrementally.

“I’ve talked to a number of railway executives who agree with that assessment,” said Routley. “This is a public policy decision. Vancouver Islanders are going to subsidize transportation … so in a low-carbon future, we need to look at alternatives and even without that consideration, we need to spread our transportation infrastructure investments around to get the best results.”

Krog said rail service return is inevitable as population is increasing and cost of building and maintaining highways and the environmental impact of vehicles are aligning in favour of more efficient public transportation, and rail is part of that.

Bringing service back incrementally is possible and Krog wants to hear from Island residents and other interested people.

“I expect to get a read on public opinion … the enthusiasts are more likely to be out than those opposed, so you have to temper your views when you hear that, but I will be interested to see the level of enthusiasm and the level of opposition.”

The Island Corridor Foundation is the federally registered charity that was established to own and manage the railway corridor on Vancouver Island and its plan to restore service is currently stalled as it awaits provincial approval.

While Routley said the idea of the foundation is good, but was critical of its results.

“They have failed to produce the results that they are tasked with and there has to be an accounting for that and I think that the management is certainly a part of that. The governance structure is certainly a part of that and we think that it should be more open, more transparent and more community involved,” said Routley.

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