Costs of getting passenger rail service operating again on Vancouver Island are still on track, says Graham Bruce, chief operating officer of the Island Corridor Foundation.
"It sort of sounds like it goes on and on and on, but it's the same dollar," Bruce said, adding the budget is essentially the same as it was when the plan was developed two years ago.
"The whole plan has always been simply to re-establish passenger service between Victoria and Courtenay. It was $15 million of railroad track work that needed to be done," Bruce said.
Between June 2011 and April 2012, the foundation, the E&N rail line's owner, secured $15 million in funding - shared equally by the provincial and federal governments - to cover the cost of upgrades to 225 kilometres of rail line from Victoria to Courtenay.
Of that money, the foundation used $500,000 to con-duct a detailed engineering audit of the 48 bridges and trestles, and discovered $5.9 million in structural repairs were needed. That brought the total budget to $20.9 million.
When the plan to revitalize the line was made in October 2010, the foundation knew repairs to the bridges would be necessary but didn't know how much and didn't have the money to conduct the evaluation until the $15 million in senior government funding was secured, Bruce said.
Currently, Bruce is making the rounds of the five regional districts along the route, asking them to contribute $3.2 million of the $5.9 million needed to make immediate repairs. This week, the Capital Regional District board agreed to give a one-time $1.2-million grant toward the work. The balance is expected to be raised or borrowed by the foundation at a later date.
But the latest "ask" is not one of a series to come, Bruce said.
He understands it might seem to some that the foundation is forever asking for more money to get the line ready, but it's not, he said.
Instead, he's asking different bodies for their share of a known sum.
To date, funding in principle has been secured from the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and the Cowichan Valley Regional District. The Regional District of Nanaimo and the Comox Regional District have yet to consider requests for their share, Bruce said.
Because of the poor condition of the tracks, passenger Dayliner service was suspended in March 2011.
Bruce is negotiating a new agreement to once again have Via Rail operate passenger service when the capital work is done to the rail line.
The hope is to have the rail line repairs started by February or March, so service can be re-established by the fall of 2013.
© Copyright 2013