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Vancouver Island Railway Study Released

VIA Rail train arrives in Courtney, BC
Popular VIA Rail train arrives in Courtney, BC

The provincial study on the future of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway (now owned by the Island Corridor Foundation) on Vancouver Island was released recently. The summary of the study basically concludes that it is not worth investing any money in the railway corridor.

The full study can be found on the BC Ministry of Transportation site.

The E&N railway is now owned by the Island Corridor Foundation. Rail service is contracted to the Southern Railway of Vancouver Island. Freight service only exists along part of the line between Courtney and Duncan. There is one round trip passenger train every day from Victoria north to Courtney and a return trip to Victoria in the afternoon. The segment of the line from Parksville to Port Alberni is out of service, although a tourist train operates on a portion of the railway near Port Alberni.

One of the main problems with the rail corridor is that right of way is overgrown, tracks are worn out and years of deferred maintenance have taken their toll. Train speeds must be reduced due to the poor quality of the roadbed. This further diminishes the competitiveness of the rail service. The Island Corridor Foundation was hoping to get an investment from senior level governments to upgrade the line so it could support better VIA Rail service, commuter rail in the Victoria area, re-open the Port Alberni line and attract more freight service.

It is disappointing to public transport advocates that the province of BC has no problem dropping $24 million on new interchanges (eg. McTavish Rd in North Saanich). The province, with help from the federal government will spend $1.184 billion on the South Fraser Perimeter Road (expressway). These road projects seem to get announced every week with no year-long half million dollar studies, but for non-highway projects the province isn’t interested in supporting them.


Map of the Island Railway Corridor (Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway)

The route of the E&N Railway on Vancouver Island. By Matthew Buchanan (Transport Action BC)

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