VICTORIA – The province’s confirmation of a $7 million commitment to the Island Corridor Foundation does nothing to ensure the E&N rail line is closer to being restored, says Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley.
“This is just a confirmation that nothing has changed for the E&N,” said Routley. “The Liberal government has restated its commitment, but the underlying problems still exist: federal money is not in place and there are questions about whether the entire job can be done within the estimated dollar amount.”
Routley said the funds for the E&N are trapped in a Catch 22. The federal money is dependent upon the return of VIA Rail and VIA Rail’s return is dependent upon the successful refurbishment of the track. He also stressed that the province’s own review of the plan recently concluded that the amount committed will not do the whole job.
“The federal and provincial governments are basically saying ‘we’ll provide the money when you provide the conditions, but the conditions can’t be met without the money.’ And it means the much-needed project is indefinitely stalled.
“New Democrats consider the E&N to be an essential foundation to a sustainable transportation plan for Vancouver Island,” said Routley. “I have been hosting public meetings and have assembled a group of advisors who have enormous experience running railways and transit operations. We see commuter demand, tourist rail, and freight opportunities that will lighten the inevitable growth of traffic on our already overloaded roads.
“The provincial and federal governments should place conditions on the money that are relevant and achievable. They should demand management and governance reforms that will ensure a productive and successful operation and then let the funds flow so that trains can run again.
“This should have been done long ago and this announcement confirms only that we are still stuck in the mud of a government that doesn’t appear to care about the transportation needs of Vancouver Island.”