Homeless activity spikes on E&N rail line in absence of trains

Homeless activity spikes on E&N rail line in absence of trains

WATCH: There’s growing concern around homeless camps and garbage on the E&N rail line that once carried passengers between Victoria and Courtenay and now has become a ghost line. While the Island Corridor Foundation continues to push the possibility of the passenger service that ceased in 2011 could be brought back, a more urgent problem is emerging.

On a lonely stretch of the E&N rail line, people who are homeless could be seen drinking beer Thursday without any fear of a train coming their way. Passenger rail service hasn’t run on the tracks in seven years and in its absence, there is a new community and unfortunately, more of a mess.

“Well it’s a challenge,” said Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) Chair Phil Kent.

“Because the corridor is so long and includes so many communities.”

Kent said the abandoned homeless camps lining the rail and piles of garbage along it became a major issue at the recent ICF annual meeting.

“The ICF isn’t able to manage all of the issue on its own,” said Kent. “It’s a very large piece of property as you can imagine,” he said.

Daily passenger rail service between Victoria and Courtenay was suspended in 2011 when the rail line became too run down to operate safely operate on. Since then, the Island Corridor Foundation has been trying to come up with funding and a plan to restore the tracks and revive the service.

Yet right now, it’s clear the greatest users of the corridor are homeless people, since its a direct line between communities and often very quiet.

“It’s not particularly patrolled so they’re not going to be bothered,” said Kent.

The Island Corridor Foundation is sharing this increasing development with the province and looking for solutions, since restored rail is still a very long way off on Vancouver Island.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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