The Union of B.C. Municipalities is calling on the provincial and federal governments to invest in a rail system on Vancouver Island and to consult with First Nations.
Municipal members voted in favour Friday of urging senior governments to commit money to preserve the Island rail corridor “so that it can continue to connect communities, establish safe and environmentally sound passenger and freight rail services, and strengthen economies up, down and across Vancouver Island.”
At its conference in Whistler, UBCM delegates recommended that engagement and consultation also be carried out with First Nations affected by the Island rail corridor and the operation of the railway.
Municipalities at the event backed the idea of restoring rail service on the Island after a motion was presented by the Town of View Royal.
A deadline looms over the corridor, which has not been used for passenger service since 2011 because of the poor condition of its tracks.
The B.C. Court of Appeal has given the federal government until March of next year to make a decision on whether it wants to see rail service again and whether it will contribute funding.
View Royal Mayor David Screech said the motion approved at the UBCM is one more signal to senior governments that local governments support rail on the Island.
“We are worried that the province and the federal government don’t see the urgency with this court date coming up,” said Screech, who would like to see the provincial and federal governments commit to rail prior to the court deadline.
The 295-kilometre rail corridor is owned by the Island Corridor Foundation, which developed a report outlining plans and cost estimates for the line.
Premier John Horgan, however, said in early August that he is “not confident” that reviving a railway on the Island would be possible.
Larry Stevenson, CEO of the Island Corridor Foundation, said consultation with the foundation, province and First Nations is underway already and the province is approaching municipalities.
“People are starting to understand that if we don’t take the necessary steps to protect this corridor, we could lose it and I don’t think anybody is really wanting to see that,” he said Friday.