CVRD sees future for rail corridor

The Cowichan Valley Regional District is still hopeful rail service to the area will be re-established soon.

  • Apr. 1, 2016 3:00 p.m.

ROBERT BARRON CITIZEN

The Cowichan Valley Regional District is still hopeful rail service to the area will be re-established soon.

That’s despite the fact directors in the Regional District of Nanaimo recently voted unanimously to stop collecting its share of the approximately $21 million funding to fix the tracks on the Island’s rail corridor.

The RDN had committed almost $1 million to the project before it decided to withhold the funding, while the CVRD has earmarked $486,000.

Officials from the Island Corridor Foundation and Southern Railway Vancouver Island, the main advocates for the reintroduction of rail service to the Island, made a presentation to the CVRD last week to provide an update on when, or if, the resumption of both freight and passenger rail service can be expected.

“We’re still fully behind this project, and we’ve just recently put our final installment in our reserve fund towards it,” said Jon Lefebure, chairman of the CVRD.

“We were told that the final signatures [for funding from the federal government] are expected in the next month or two. We understand the frustration of the RDN, but we have to be patient and I hope the district will reconsider when all the ducks are finally in a row.”

Lefebure suggested that the RDN should invite the officials from the railway companies to a meeting and give an update of the project as they did in the CVRD.

Regional districts on the Island have committed approximately $7 million to the project, and the federal and provincial governments have said they would contribute $7.5 million each.

But the funding from the districts will not be released until the ICF and SVI have the funding promised from other levels of government in hand.

The sign‐off for the cash from Ottawa was delayed by the federal election in October and then earlier this year by the Snaw‐Naw‐As (Nanoose) First Nation filing a civil claim against the ICF and the federal government.

The ICF filed a response to the civil claim at the end of February, and Ottawa is expected to file by the end of March.

Judith Sayers, co-chairperson of the ICF, said that, in the meantime, the foundation will investigate other funding and operational alternatives through consultations with ICF stakeholders and the railway operator, Southern Rail.

“The ICF remains open to working with the RDN and other partners to secure the funds to make rail on Vancouver Island a reality,” Sayers said in a statement.

“This project is a major economic and tourism opportunity for communities along the corridor, and with the rails and trails connection, also provides a substantial benefit to residents as well.”