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Shawnigan rail petition organizer still optimistic, despite lack of commitment from feds

Minister says transportation important, but offers no new funds for rail line
The federal government has still not committed to funding for the restoration of rail service on Vancouver Island in its response to a petition asking for it to do so. (Citizen file photo)

Shawnigan Lake’s Warren Skaalrud said he’s not surprised by the federal government’s lack of response to a petition he began earlier this year, which garnered more than 12,000 signatures, calling for the restoration of passenger and freight train services on Vancouver Island.

He said he’s not sure how Pablo Rodriguez, minister of Transport, could have responded to the petition at this time.

But Skaalrud said that while the minister’s comments on the issue on March 22 didn’t answer the petition’s calls, it does show that work is ongoing on the issue, and that the Island Corridor Foundation, which owns the deteriorating 220-kilometre E&N rail line that stretches from Victoria to Courtenay, is actively engaging with Canada and British Columbia to bring about a solution.


Skaalrud said he intends to let the bureaucratic processes play out, but he will try to keep the issue around rejuvenating the rail line in the public eye while it does.

He said the infrastructure is there for the rail line and services to be restored; it just needs to be updated.

“The Island Rail Corridor is getting a shave and a haircut and (is currently) removing rockfall to make it safer, and the ICF is hiring a corridor project manager,” Skaalrud said.

“While Larry Stevenson, the CEO of the ICF moves on and a new CEO comes in, I’m confident that with a new set of eyes on the changing landscape around the railway, we will eventually have trains running again. It’s not over yet. All aboard!”

The petition, which was recently presented in Parliament by Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor, asked that the government create a $1-billion fund using the various B.C. and federal government funding mechanisms for public transit, and guarantee funding to the ICF, if approved for implementation.


The petition also asked the government to apply the funding to create a modern freight and passenger service on Vancouver Island, and to reconcile and resolve long-standing First Nations’ concerns with certain sections of the island corridor.

Passenger train service on the rail line was stopped in 2011 due to track safety concerns, and freight service has also been discontinued on most parts of the Island as well.

The ICF currently estimates the cost of reviving rail on Vancouver Island would be approximately $431 million, and Skaalrud said in February that this can be accomplished if just the rail line itself had to be dealt with.

But he said some First Nations along the line may not want trains to go through their territory anymore, so some financial accommodations must be made in case land around these properties would have to be acquired for the railway.

In his statement, Rodriguez said the government understands the importance of advancing sustainable transportation solutions that benefit communities, foster economic growth, and fortify overall resilience in the face of evolving challenges.

He didn’t commit to any immediate funding for the railway, but hinted some may be provided in the coming years

“Canada has committed to establishing a permanent predictable federal fund to support public transit and active transportation solutions beginning in 2026-27,” Rodriguez said.

“More details will be made available later this year.”

Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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