Commuter rail service to be considered during interchange build

West Shore mayors are hoping to see a strong business plan before proceeding.

Langford Mayor Stew Young says any talk of using the E&N corridor as a commuter service during construction of the McKenzie Interchange won’t roll through Langford without a solid business plan.

Following a meeting Thursday (July 28) with local mayors and stakeholders, Young said he doesn’t believe the plan has merit if it’s going to involve major subsidies paid for by the municipalities along the route.

Initial discussion focused on a terminus near the Roundabout development in Victoria and one near Westhills in Langford.

“Common sense say the cost per rider shouldn’t be much higher than bus fare,” Young said. “We can’t make decisions based on emotion,” he added.“Any politician who supports subsidies in the range of $60 per rider won’t be around much longer.”

Ideally, Young would like to see the costs of infrastructure and operation along the E&N line managed locally through a regional transportation strategy, with the Island Corridor Foundation only involved in the preservation of the rail line.

Young would also like to see the rail line broken into South Island, mid-Island and up-Island zones that consider the elements of passenger and rule service zone by zone. “We need to look at the economic viability for each zone as a separate business case that is supported by the local municipalities.” That would make a stronger case for accessing federal and provincial funding, Young added.

Service on the line, which is owned by the ICF, was suspended five years ago due to safety concerns. ICF CEO Graham Bruce could not be reached for comment by the Gazette’s press deadline.

View Royal Mayor David Screech, who described the meeting as a “good, frank discussion” with major landowners on each end of the proposed route.

“This requires a critical look at the costs of restoring, upgrading, the ridership fees and what kind of subsidy will be required,” Screech noted.

Although Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton said Colwood was not involved in the July 28 meeting because the E&N doesn’t pass through there, maybe this will create enough pressure to pull the pieces together to put a plan in place that works for the short and long term.

“As far as it being a contributor to a solution during construction of the interchange, I’m not sure if it will be able to accomplish anything in a reasonable amount of time to be able to fix that.”

Goldstream News Gazette