Regional District of Nanaimo releases money for railway track repairs

NANAIMO – Move is hoped to help restore passenger rail service to Vancouver Island.

The Regional District of Nanaimo has taken the next step in funding provision to the Island Corridor Foundation in a move that is hoped to return passenger rail service to Nanaimo.

At last week’s regular meeting, regional district directors voted to carry out a contribution agreement with the foundation.

In 2012, the board agreed to provide funding to the tune of $945,000, split into two payments of $472,000. A 2013 portion was requisitioned through taxes and currently sits in reserve. A portion for 2015 will see the tax requisition lessened thanks to another motion, which designates $68,000 of 2014 provincial Strategic Community Investment Fund grant money.

The railway has been a hot topic of debate among directors, with some wondering if money from the regional district and that from other levels of government will be enough for infrastructure repairs.

John Ruttan, Nanaimo mayor and regional district director, said he understood why some directors were against the motion but the bigger picture had to be examined. It’s now or never, he said.

“It’s taken us almost four years to get to this point and this is make or break right now. There’s a huge amount of work needed right now and if we wait another five years, there’ll be three times as much work to be done and it’ll definitely be at a point where nobody can afford to do it, certainly no government can,” said Ruttan.

Regional district CAO Paul Thorkelsson previously told the News Bulletin that no money will be released to the foundation until it goes through the tendering process for track repairs.

An operating agreement between Via Rail, the foundation and Southern Railway of B.C. has been signed and only needs ratification from the partners’ respective boards.

Representatives from Southern Railway and Via confirmed that ratification will be discussed at board meetings in August.

Passenger rail was discontinued in spring 2011 due to unsafe track conditions.