One of the first priorities for Larry Stevenson when he takes over as the new CEO of the Island Corridor Foundation on Aug. 1 is to develop a comprehensive communication strategy.
Stevenson, who is from Vancouver Island and brings 25 years of railway experience to his new position, said a lot of good work has been done over the years at the ICF to build a structure to revive train service on the Island and “get things moving forward”.
“But it seems that it’s only the ICF’s board and it members who really know that,” said Stevenson, who also has extensive experience as an entrepreneur and management consultant.
“More people on the Island need to know what the ICF is and what it is supposed to do. We need to get people behind this if we want to succeed. The railway corridor is too valuable an asset to just turn away and give up on it. That’s not good for today, and it won’t be good 40 to 50 years from now.”
The Island Corridor Foundation owns the deteriorating 220-kilometre E&N rail line that stretches from Victoria to Courtenay and is committed to resurrecting rail service on the Island.
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.
The ICF presented a $42.7-million proposal to revive the railway to the new NDP government last November, with the hopes that senior levels of government would split the costs of major track upgrades between Nanaimo and Victoria, which is considered to be phase one of the overall project.
Neither the province nor Ottawa have yet committed to the plan.
Stevenson said another major priority for him when he takes on his new position on Aug. 1 is to see if there is a way to resolve the ongoing legal issue with the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation in Nanoose, which is a major stumbling block in reviving the railway.
The First Nation claims the railway land in its traditional territory was wrongfully taken from it years ago to build the railway and is seeking to have it returned.
“One of the reasons why I decided to do this job is because of the many challenges involved, including this dispute,” he said.
“There’s been a level of frustration in the history of getting the trains running again with issues like this, and they need to be resolved. There’s so much potential for tourism, freight and passenger service with a working rail line. It must be realized that once it’s gone, it’s gone and we won’t get it back.”
Phil Kent, chairman of the ICF and mayor of Duncan, said Stevenson will further advance the foundation’s focus on the realization of its goal of restoring vital rail transportation on the Island.
“We are very pleased Larry will be joining us,” Kent said.
“Larry is the perfect choice to provide us with the leadership and drive needed to continue building on our vision to bring rail back to the island.”
Kent said the ICF’s board also thanks Graham Bruce, the outgoing CEO, for his years of dedication and work and wish him and his family a well-deserved retirement.
“Graham will work with Larry over the coming months to ensure an orderly transition,” he said.