Editorial: Optimism for Island rail corridor as 2019 begins

There is no doubt the price tag for the project has risen significantly.

Will 2019 finally be the year we see some moves to get the Island Corridor railway back up and running?

The year is certainly starting out with some optimism on that front.

In December a meeting took place with all of the local government stakeholders along the rail line, with the province at the table. The Island Corridor Foundation and the local governments have long been ready to take action to upgrade the tracks enough to be able to get the trains running again.

But there has been a notable lack of interest from the federal and provincial governments, who, at one time, had looked as if they were going to come through with a portion of the funding. It became a game of who was going to actually step up with the dollars first, with each insisting they’d come on board after this was done, or that was done, or the other was ready to commit. It all resulted in stalling the entire project.

Since then, the rail line has continued to deteriorate. There is no doubt the price tag for the project has risen significantly. Indeed, in 2017 the ICF presented a $42.7-million plan to the provincial government that would see the Nanaimo to Victoria section of the line upgraded. We’d venture to say that the bill to upgrade the railroad enough to make it a going concern is likely a lot more than that.

But we believe the project is still well worth it. This is something on which it is necessary to take the long view. As the population of the Island continues to grow and age, we need more public transportation options, and having the rail right-of-way up the Island’s spine is a huge luxury we’d be foolish to squander. Other areas of the world are investing heavily in trains as they look to the future of getting people from here to there, and we are far behind in this regard.

It is heartening that the provincial government is cooperating with the ICF to take the first step: getting an assessment of the condition of the tracks and bridges on the line. Let’s get this train going.

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