The Friends of Rails to Trails Vancouver Island have provided the following article to Saltair News and Views. It describes the current situation.
Many of us reminisce about the E&N train that once travelled from Victoria to Courtenay and back. It was plagued with problems as numerous operators couldn’t make it economically viable. Discussions have been held about reversing its schedule, getting more government money to make it work, and converting it into a cruise ship/tourist train. All of these sound glamorous but, on closer inspection don’t work well. Alternatively, we could have a transportation corridor that provides a safe non motorized route for tourists, commuters, and community residents. Converted rail beds in other communities have realized a significant economic benefit from rail to trail conversions.
A well respected consultant, IBI Group, was contracted 10 years ago to study feasibility of getting the train running again. Cost estimates at that time were $341 million for repairing the track from Victoria to Courtenay, including restoration of bridges and trestles. In addition, it was estimated that $6.4 million in annual subsidies would be required from the government. Those were in 2009 dollars. With a population of 563,500 in the communities that the track runs through, that equates to $683 per person in today’s dollars just to get the track to operating capability. However, the tracks have deteriorated substantially since then, making the 2009 estimates substantially higher. It should be noted that the road crossing upgrades were not addressed and present a substantial risk factor. The operating subsidy would also need to be updated. In addition to the risks of at grade crossings, the speed of the train is seriously compromised (max. 40 mph), making its suitability as a commuter alternative less attractive yet.
The corridor is currently owned by the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) which is comprised of 11 First Nations and 5 Regional Districts. There are pending law suits against the Foundation for First Nations’ reclamation of the land as it is not being used for transportation purposes. In addition, the ICF owed $1,067,811 as of Dec. 31, 2016 secured by the physical assets of the corridor. A direct quote from the Auditor’s Report is “ These conditions along with other matters as set forth in Note 2, indicate the existence of a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt about the Foundation’s ability to continue as a going concern.”
The above information is provided from data accumulated from professional and reliable sources. Should anyone wish to view the sources, please contact Friends of Rails to Trails, www.fortvi.ca or call 250 245-0471. Should you wish to see the 319 kilometers of unused rail converted to a multi use trail, please contact us. We can only accomplish this with your support.