A rally to support the E&N Railway will be held at the Duncan Train Station on June 1 at 11 a.m.
The rally will be hosted by the E&N Railway Roundtable, a group committed to coordinating efforts throughout the Island to help preserve and revive the Island’s rail corridor, and comes just weeks after Premier John Horgan told a group of business representatives that the government may be leaning towards expanding bus service instead.
Horgan told the business leaders that a proposal to establish a light-rail service in the south Island, from Victoria to Langford, doesn’t have a business case to support it, and that the government is more interested in building bus lanes.
The next day, Transportation Minister Claire Trevena wouldn’t totally rule out the idea of getting train service going again on the E&N, but said addressing traffic woes from Langford into Victoria as quickly as possible is the government’s main focus.
A press release from the ENRR announcing the rally said a rail-car service from Langford to Victoria could provide a 20-minute service between these two points with a bus connection on the Roundhouse property.
“Nanaimo to Langford can be brought back simply with infrastructure funds (totalling approximately $45 million) from the federal government, along with support from the province, VIA Rail and Southern Rail of Vancouver Island,” the release stated.
“When we see the province spending $35 million on the Malahat and $80 million on the McKenzie interchange, we have to question the value of those expenditures when we consider what could be accomplished with those funds applied to the E&N.”
Graham Bruce, CEO of the Island Corridor Foundation which owns the deteriorating 220-kilometre rail line that stretches from Victoria to Courtenay, said that with the proper commuter trains in place on the Langford-Victoria route, it would be possible to move 1,200 passengers per hour.
He said the Island’s population is expected to increase substantially in the coming years, and the rail lines should be utilized.
“Our younger generation today and those who come tomorrow will be glad there is a rail transportation system, so let’s keep buses on the highways and trains on the tracks,” Bruce said.
Passenger train service on the E&N rail line was stopped in 2011 due to track safety concerns, and freight service has also been discontinued between Duncan and Parksville.
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.