Island freight rail halted over track safety concerns

NANAIMO — Island rail freight has been suspended from Duncan to Parksville over track safety concerns — and there’s no word on how long it will take Southern Rail of Vancouver Island to resume the service.

“After completion of a detailed risk assessment, it was determined that the safest course of action was to temporarily discontinue the freight service,” said a statement posted on the Island Corridor Foundation website.

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Passenger service was suspended in March 2011, after rail conditions were deemed unsafe. Freight, which can move more slowly, continued to travel between Duncan and Parksville until earlier this week.

SVI, the operator, and railway owner Island Corridor Foundation worked to secure $20.9 million in funding commitments from three levels of government to restart passenger service, with plans to expand existing freight business and develop new excursion rail services.

“We anticipate these funds will be released in early 2015,” said a foundation statement. “While we await the release of these funds, SVI continues to monitor the condition of the infrastructure and adjust train operations as required to maintain safety.”

No one from SVI or ICF could be reached for comment on Wednesday.

The service cancellation follows a track inspection conducted with the B.C. Safety Authority, an independent organization responsible for safe installation and operation of technical systems and equipment, including railways, under the Railway Safety Act. The safety authority said SVI recently competed a risk assessment, and decided to suspend its Duncan- Parksville freight service.

Southern Rail says it’s working with customers on alternatives. Freight operations serving customers at Wellcox railyard and North Nanaimo continue.

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