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West Shore figures in Island rail service plans

This long unused stop on Station Avenue in Langford may one day be revived under the Island Corridor Foundation’s plan to return passenger rail to Vancouver Island. - Kyle Wells/News staff
This long unused stop on Station Avenue in Langford may one day be revived under the Island Corridor Foundation’s plan to return passenger rail to Vancouver Island.
— image credit: Kyle Wells/News staff

A tentative deal to revive the defunct E&N railroad could mean train service returning to Langford and View Royal, with a possible new stop at Westhills.

Having a rail service up and running could still be years away, but Island Corridor Foundation CEO Graham Bruce said plans are being solidified for regular passenger trips between Nanaimo to Victoria.

Stops haven’t been finalized, but once-active stations in Langford and View Royal are included as part of the proposed operation. A new platform station is also in the works for Westhills.

The rail service is being designed as a form of inter-city transportation, but having the timing work for West Shore downtown commuters is being taken into consideration as a secondary priority.

“We’re looking to try and develop it in such a way that it provides the greatest opportunity for use, while meeting the needs of the entire island,” Bruce said.

The ICF announced in Nanaimo last week a tentative deal with Southern Railway and Via Rail to bring back rail service to Vancouver Island.

The new deal would allow the Island Corridor Foundation and Southern Railway to access more than $20 million in funding for track and bridge improvements through the partnership of federal, provincial and regional governments, according to foundation co-chair Mary Ashley.

Via Rail has since cautioned the deal may not be as close as the foundation made it sound, but Bruce maintains a tentative deal is on the table and the parties involved are merely being cautious.

“They said there’s no final agreement, and we all agree there’s no final agreement,” he said. “But we all agreed there’s a tentative agreement.”

Freight and passenger train operations would be based in Nanaimo and trains would run between Victoria and Courtenay, with an early-morning southbound route to the Capital Region planned.

A new Victoria station would also need to be built. The ICF is proposing the terminus be located between Catherine and Mary streets in Vic West. Bruce said the area would be ideal, as it has easy access to buses to downtown Victoria.

The schedule will have to go through some adjustments, however, and there is no set date for when everything will be up and running, Ashley said.

“There’s much work to do before the passenger train whistle blows again,” she said.

“The agreement is to be ratified by the three respective boards, funding agreements will be signed off, tendering and awarding of bids will proceed and there will be approximately nine months of track work.”

The foundation has stated repairs will cost more than $100 million. Bruce said the repairs would be done incrementally over the next few years.

– With files from Karl Yu

kwells@goldstreamgazette.com

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