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Premier Horgan doubts renewing the railway on Vancouver Island is achievable

Cost of rail service between West Shore and Victoria would be “profound,” says premier
A dilapidated rail crossing on Esquimalt Road and Catherine Street. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Premier John Horgan says he is “not confident” that it will be possible to revive rail service on Vancouver Island.

Even so, Larry Stevenson, executive director of the Island Corridor Foundation, remains hopeful that senior governments will agree on funding to install a new passenger and cargo rail system, which would include a Langford-Victoria commuter rail service. The foundation owns the 295-kilometre-long rail corridor.

The future of rail on the Island is being discussed as a deadline looms. The B.C. Court of Appeal has given the federal government until March 2023 to decide if it wants — and will help pay for — rail service.

Horgan spoke at a news ­conference ­Wednesday announcing a new ­post-secondary education ­campus in the West Shore, where he said one of the questions was how to manage and enhance transportation options for the region.

“That corridor is going to be a key part of that. I’m just not confident that the vision we had 15 years ago is achievable.”

Horgan said he has been an advocate of better utilization of the E&N corridor since being first elected.

One of his first meetings with Langford Mayor Stew Young was about how to get trains running again. But many years later, there has been no progress, ­Horgan said.

The federal government responded to interest from Island residents to get the corridor for transportation purposes, he said. “Unfortunately, the federal government said, ‘Here’s your corridor,’ and then they left and the provider at the time said, ‘I’m no longer obliged to provide … passenger service.’ ”

Horgan said he had no hope to offer on the issue.

He is stepping down as premier when the NDP elects a new leader on Dec. 3.

The cost of providing rail ­service just between the West Shore and Victoria is ­“profound,” ­Horgan said.

A rail track into downtown Victoria no longer exists. Passenger service has not been offered since 2011 because of the poor condition of the tracks.

Stevenson said Thursday that this is a complex issue and establishing rail service on the Island requires the assistance of the federal government.

He still feels positive about the potential outcome because the foundation has been having conversations for some time with the province and the federal government.

There is a recognition on the Island that all parties need to get together in the same room to make a decision, he said. “We need to come together and work together to make sure that this corridor is protected because if we lose it, we don’t get it back.”

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