Passenger rail awaits government approval

NANAIMO – Infrastructure Canada working through proposal.

There is still no timetable for when passenger rail service will return to Nanaimo, according to Island Corridor Foundation CEO Graham Bruce.

While the five regional districts along the right of way, including the Regional District of Nanaimo, have committed to funding, Bruce said approval is needed from the federal and provincial governments.

“The full package, the infrastructure work itself, the business plan, everything, is with Infrastructure Canada right now. It’s a huge volume and it’s been with them for [a] while, as it is with the B.C. Ministry of Transportation.

“They’re doing their reviews of all of that work and once we get sign off from them, then the work can be tendered. I have no idea what the time frame is on that,” said Bruce.

The Regional District of Nanaimo voted in July to carry out a contribution agreement with the foundation. A total of $945,000 will be provided, but will be split into two payments of $472,500. A portion from 2013 was requisitioned through taxes and sits in reserve. The other portion will be part of the upcoming 2015 budget discussion.

One of the conditions was the provision of an agreement with the foundation, Via Rail and other parties, which Paul Thorkelsson, regional district chief administrative officer, said has been received.

“That was kind of the significant condition that was put on and included within the funding agreement that the RDN signed with the Island Corridor Foundation,” Thorkelsson said. “So that was sort of the last trigger under that agreement, which would allow funding to flow.”

If approval is given and contracts are awarded, Bruce said the plan is to begin work in Victoria and head to Nanaimo, allowing for service between the two cities to start. Work would subsequently continue to Courtenay.

“We are making progress. Much slower than what I had anticipated, but we are making progress,”  Bruce said.