Deadline looms to restore or abandon Island passenger rail

The Island Corridor Foundation has released a business case for reinstating rail service on Vancouver Island. (CHEK News)

As the court imposed deadline to make a decision on if rail traffic will resume on Vancouver Island looms, the Island Corridor Foundation is making a business case for re-launching the service.

In September 2021, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled the federal government must make a decision in 18 months on whether rail service will resume, and if not, the land must be returned to the First Nations.

The idea to revive passenger rail between Victoria and Courtenay and Parksville to Port Alberni has been thrown around for years, but this time the Island Corridor Foundation has built a business plan, pitching a twice daily profitable service in addition to commuter rail between Langford and Victoria and calling it a now or never solution to Island transportation.

“It’s a use it or lose it situation. We’ve been at this for a very long time and if this isn’t going to be the impetus to get us moving forward I don’t now that there’s going to be one,” said Larry Stevenson, CEO of Island Corridor Foundation.

“If the government does not move forward in some way, shape or form, does not indicate they are willing to fund this rail line then it’s going to be subject to revisionary rights, and its going to be subject of many many land claims,” said Stevenson.

ICF estimates it would cost $431-million to complete the job, but insists the environmental savings of getting commuters out of cars and onto rail would be greater. In addition to keeping transport going even when the Malahat highway is closed in emergencies like the massive washout of last fall’s storms.

“When you look at the weather events last year it made it pretty clear that we should probably have some options,” said Stevenson.

According to ICF, the Provincial and Federal governments are now reviewing the business case presented. As those advocating for rail service wait to see if this last gasp pitch may finally have worked.

Amy Ferris considered what a gamble it was opening up the ‘Black Rabbit’ in Nanaimo’s historic train station, and hopes this business case means the gamble paid off.

“I’m excited to see what that brings and I think Nanaimo is this special little microcosm that is so untapped a this moment,” said Amy Ferris, owner of the Black Rabbit,

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