WATCH: It’s a debate raging for years in Greater Victoria: what to do with the E&N corridor. Last spring, the previous Liberal government promised to look into the feasibility of a light transit line. But the Ministry of Transportation says it needs more time to study the viability of the project. Langford Mayor Stew Young is suggesting the 10-kilometre long route from Langford to Victoria could be used for commuter buses now instead of waiting for future light rail transit. But as Mary Griffin reports not everyone is on board with the idea.
E&N rail service used to run daily between Victoria and Courtenay, but the last train ran in 2011. In March, former Transportation Minister Todd Stone announced a working group to study commuter options along the E&N railway corridor.
“So that is why this morning, I am very pleased to announce that we will form a working group,” Stone announced to a large group of mayors, and other politicians gathered at the E&N Esquimalt station.
On Thursday, Langford Mayor Stew Young said it’s time to get moving.
“You get one chance to do this,” Young said. “And I’m hopeful that this report will come out in the next two or three months.”
Meanwhile, traffic continues to build on the main arteries into Greater Victoria. The West Shore population is expected to grow by tens of thousands and relieving commuter congestion is the driving force for the mayor.
“If the train doesn’t work financially, the business case for it, then what we should be doing is looking at a bus, you know,” Young said. “Or any option to get people on it. To move it.”
The land under these train tracks is owned by a non-profit group, the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF).
There hasn’t been a train running along these tracks for more than five years. There is grass growing between the tracks, and the wood ties are rotting, meaning an investment of millions is necessary to rebuild the tracks. But the ICF wants a train there, and nothing else, according to Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt, who is the Capital Regional District’s representative on the ICF board.
“I don’t support proposals to pave over or remove the rail,” Isitt said. “I think the cost of restoring rail would be substantially higher if we do that. I think the ICF business plan is clear that rail as an ongoing use of the corridor.”
Meanwhile, the NDP government is continuing to look at the E&N corridor between Victoria and Langford as a possible way to improve transportation, and it’s accelerating work on bus lanes on the Trans-Canada Highway.