Meeting between mayors, province sparks new hope for restored E&N rail line
Talk of reviving a dormant rail line on Vancouver Island is gaining steam, and some say the idea is closer to becoming a reality than ever before.
The corridor, a 225-kilometre line that once ran from Victoria up to Courtenay, has sat dormant since 2011.
But a meeting was held last week between the Island Corridor Foundation, which owns the railway, local mayors and the provincial government that has seemingly renewed hope for train service on the island.
"What was very interesting was I don't think anyone went in with preconceived ideas, but community after community came forward and talked about the challenges and their need for that corridor to come alive again," said Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins. "It was really focused on rail and what the benefit could be for the island."
ICF President Larry Stevenson said that the province is listening to the feedback.
"The province heard loud and clear that the stakeholders want rail reinstated, and so we are going to move forward with an assessment of the track and bridges," said Stevenson.
Optimistic talk of restoring the rail line is nothing new to Vancouver Islanders.
Political promises have been made and repeated that rail will be revived, accompanied by calls for more studies from both the NDP and Liberals.
With growing congestion on the highway between the West Shore and Victoria and a summer of major shutdowns on the Malahat Highway, the idea was popular with people who spoke with CTV News on the street.
"Great idea. It cuts out the cars and people can get on and off, it's more efficient, it's green," a Colwood woman told CTV News.
"I think that would be fantastic. I think everybody loved having the old rail system here, and I think it is a good idea," said another local.
The province has agreed to pay for an assessment of the tracks, and said in a statement it was "committed to finding the best use of the corridor so that people on Vancouver Island can get moving more quickly and reliably."
It's not clear when the assessment will be complete.