UPDATE: Province provides $7.5 million for passenger rail

Restoration of passenger rail service on Vancouver Island is a step closer following a $7.5 million investment from the B.C. government.

Premier Christy Clark

Premier Christy Clark

Restoration of passenger rail service on Vancouver Island is a step closer following a $7.5-million investment from the B.C. government.

Premier Christy Clark arrived at the Nanaimo train station on Selby Street Tuesday aboard a pair of Southern Vancouver Island Rail locomotives to make the announcement.

The funding is in two parts, with $7 million for track repair and $500,000 toward an engineering inspection of about 40 rail bridges and trestles on the line.

The $7 million is conditional on the Island Corridor Foundation raising an additional $7.5 million to complete essential repairs to the Island service.

Passenger rail service was shut down in April due to safety concerns arising from the deteriorating condition of the tracks, which were found to be far worse than anticipated during routine maintenance and inspection this spring. Island freight service continues, although with trains running at reduced speeds due to the condition of the tracks.

“It’s really important for people on the Island to have a passenger service for tourism, but also for freight,” said Clark. “We want to do what we can for people on the Island because it would be shortsighted to stop here and say there’s no more rail on Vancouver Island. We have to look a little bit further ahead than that.”

Clark said whether additional money gets spent on the rail service is up to the foundation and its business case.

“We’ll see what happens with the money we’ve committed now,” she said. “They can put together their plans and hopefully keep attracting new customers and that will tell us whether or not the railway is sustainable in the longer term. I believe it is, otherwise we wouldn’t have committed the seven and a half million dollars that we did today.”

Graham Bruce, ICF executive director, said the provincial commitment enables the foundation to embark on more comprehensive planning around passenger and freight service and he’s confident he will hear from the federal government on matching the $7.5 million.

“We know now we’re going to be here,” he said. “That [$15 million] secures the future and allows us as a foundation and Southern Rail to work co-operatively to really improve the rail service on the Island.”

Bruce said the foundation’s timeline requires federal support as soon as possible.

“We’ve been clear we needed an answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ by June. To maintain train service, we need [funding] now,” he said. “We had a provincial leadership race and a federal election, but we’re quite confident as these things work through we should hear from the federal component in the next couple weeks.”

James Lunney, Nanaimo-Alberni Conservative MP, said Ottawa was in on the file from the beginning and he knows how important it is to the community.

But funding challenges include the government’s economic action plan winding down and less money for infrastructure.

“There was tons of money over the last two years, but that’s all winding down,” he said. “The cruise ship terminal got money, the airport got money … this one got delayed for various reasons.

“We know how important it is, and while there’s more competition for those dollars, as long as there’s a dollar in infrastructure left, I’ll be pounding on the door to make sure it comes this way.”

The Island Corridor Foundation is a non-profit partnership representing a variety of Island municipalities, regional district and First Nations which has owned the rail infrastructure since 2006.

Just Posted

Young people graduating in COVID-19 times have shown resilience. (Stock photo)
Editorial: Class of 2021 has shown smarts and resilience

Congratulations and good luck to Grade 12s who have persevered during the pandemic

The Nanaimo Business Awards are accepting nominations now. (Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce image)
Nanaimo Business Awards accepting nominations of worthy winners

This year’s awards aren’t until the fall, but the nomination period ends June 28

Retailers say they’re ready for the ban on single-use plastic checkout bags in Nanaimo when it takes effect July 1. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Retailers report they’re ready for Nanaimo’s single-use checkout bag ban

Business operators say there’s been plenty of time to plan and prepare for bylaw that kicks in July 1

Nanaimo Fire Rescue crews on scene at a boat fire near the boat ramp at Long Lake on Sunday, June 20. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Boat burns up on Nanaimo’s Long Lake, man and child unhurt

Jet skiers attempt to put out fire by circling around to spray water on burning boat

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

John A. Read, who was inspired to leave his former career to become a professional astronomer by the purchase of a $13 telescope, will give beginning astronomers key pointers on how to set up and get the best performance from their instruments at Nanaimo Astronomy Society’s meeting June 24. (Photo courtesy Jennifer Read)
Astrophysicist will talk about getting the most out of a telescope at Nanaimo astronomy meeting

John Read’s purchase of a $13 telescope led to a degree in astrophysics and a career in astronomy

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

Most Read