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Millions of dollars pumped into maintaining unused E&N line, investigation finds
Millions of taxpayer dollars have been poured into track maintenance on a section of Capital Region railway that has sat idle for years, a CFAX 1070 investigation has found.
Seven years after passenger rail service shut down on Vancouver Island, the investigation found local and regional governments have coughed up roughly $5.4-million for upkeep on the unused E&N rail line between Langford and Victoria.
View Royal Mayor and CRD Parks Committee Chair David Screech told CTV News that more money will get pumped into the idle rail line unless a decision is made soon. He said mandatory rail line upgrades at Hallowell Road and Atkins Avenue are estimated to cost nearly $1-million.
"The rules at the moment are that this is considered an active railway, and because we're building the E&N trail on the Island Corridor Foundation property, then we are committed to or responsible for providing the proper road crossings," he said.
But the Capital Regional District is now looking into whether it should lobby for an exemption on its requirement to maintain the rail line, in light of a comment from John Horgan last month.
Speaking at an event on May 16, the B.C. premier indicated he was pulling his support for commuter rail on the South Island.
"The business case doesn't seem to be there and I'm not prepared to wait any longer," Horgan said at the time.
It's a message that could change maintenance work on the track.
"I think there's a good possibility that the committee might ask or request that we be given an exemption pending a definitive answer on the use of the corridor," said Screech.
Several crossings in Langford have also been upgraded, with one still underway on Leigh Road.
But the city's mayor is wishing it wasn't the case.
"To me it's not common sense to do that," said Stew Young. "Taxpayers' money should be looked after just as it's your own. It doesn't seem to be that with the island corridor."
The ICF, the non-profit group that protects the line, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Screen said he believes Transport Canada would have to sign off on any exemptions.
The CRD Parks Board is expected to have a conversation on the matter at a June 20 meeting.