VIA service not about commuters, says Bruce

Graham Bruce, CEO of the Island Corridor Foundation, said that questions about what might happen with possible commuter traffic on the VIA Rail line are premature. Discussion up and down the Island this week has been prompted by concerns that proposed schedules might not facilitate commuter traffic on the line.

Bruce said VIA’s service is not about commuter traffic.

"We’re not trying to provide a commuter service. VIA Rail is an intra-city service, aimed at meeting the needs of the whole of Vancouver Island," he said.

The VIA train schedule for Island communities will offer twice daily service between Nanaimo and Victoria four days of the week. On Wednesdays it will travel between Nanaimo, Victoria and Qualicum and on weekends to Courtenay, according to Bruce.

The service will be adjusted as ridership demand warrants it.

"This is the initial schedule that Southern Rail developed last spring, times and stops will be adjusted to meet the needs of the greatest number of Island residents once the service is fully operational," he said.

"An important change in the train service agreement with VIA is that we now have the ability to alter the schedule," he added.

Although the service he’s talking about runs between cities up and down the Island, there is a possibility, with track improvements complete, to offer the western communities in Victoria the chance to consider the merits of a commuter train between Langford and Victoria.

In addition, once there’s "lots of track capacity," there is room for a commuter service to the Canadian Forces base to service residents living in the south end of the Cowichan Valley, he said.

But all of these ideas are still on the drawing board.

"Southern believes there is strong demand for intra-city passenger service and is intent on meeting community needs," he said.

Bruce said that the public must remember that there are four possible types of service, including freight, tourist excursions, intracity traffic and commuter runs.

The types of cars needed for tourist excursions or longer-distance intra-city runs are not the same as those that might service commuters, so there is still a lot of room for discussion and planning, he said.

Funds for the track improvements have been committed by the federal, provincial and regional governments. Work will be tendered once both the federal and provincial government departments complete their reviews and sign off.

But this has not happened yet and Bruce said he has no idea when it might occur.