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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Vancouver Island foundation seeks regional funding for rail upgrades

The Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) recently asked its five regional district members to contribute $3.2 million to help pay for structural repairs to 48 bridges between Victoria and Courtenay, British Columbia, as part of an effort to rebuild Vancouver Island's railroad.

In spring, the ICF secured $15 million in federal and provincial funding for railroad infrastructure repairs and upgrades on the former E&N Railway. The infrastructure improvements are part of an incremental approach to restoring and expanding passenger and freight service on the island, ICF officials said in a prepared statement.

The regional contribution is essential to keeping rail services operational and providing an alternate mode of transportation, said ICF Co-Chair Mary Ashley.

"Without the regional participation, it is likely we will lose the federal/provincial funding, our rail operator and a functional railroad," she said.

Efforts to re-establish viable rail service on the island began in 2004, when regional districts, municipalities and First Nations worked jointly to save the railway from closure. The foundation acquired ownership of the former E&N Railway's right of way from RailAmerica Inc. in 2006 and later contracted Southern Railway of Vancouver Island to operate it. The next step is rebuilding the railway to restore passenger service and expand freight service, ICF officials said.

An improved railway will allow the foundation to negotiate a new passenger-rail service agreement with VIA Rail Canada Inc., which owns the equipment and provides ticketing services. Improvements call for upgrading passenger cars and scheduling changes to provide an additional early morning southbound commuter train from Nanaimo to Victoria, and an additional early evening run returning to Nanaimo from Victoria.


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