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Province affirms $7-million pledge for E&N railway on Island

The provincial government is standing by a pledge of $7 million to keep a piece of Island history on the rails.
Via operated the Island E&N line, from Victoria to Courtenay, until March 2011.

The provincial government is standing by a pledge of $7 million to keep a piece of Island history on the rails.

Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone said the province affirms funding to the Island Corridor Foundation to support the E&N rail line, which runs from Victoria to Courtenay.

Stone said the provincial government’s pledge means the railway is one step closer to resuming a fully operational passenger rail service.

In order to receive the provincial money, the Island Corridor Foundation must first confirm $7.5-million in federal funding is in place. It must also show that all upgrade work will not exceed a $20.4-million budget.

But the NDP notes that the commitment does nothing to ensure that the E&N rail line is closer to being restored.

“This is just a confirmation that nothing has changed for the E&N,” Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley said in a statement. “The Liberal government has restated its commitment, but the underlying problems still exist: Federal money is not in place and there are questions about whether the entire job can be done within the estimated dollar amount.”

Routley said the E&N funding is trapped in a catch-22 — the federal money is dependent upon the return of Via Rail and Via Rail’s return is dependent upon the successful refurbishment of the track. He also noted that the province’s own review of the plan recently concluded that the amount committed will not do the whole job.

“The federal and provincial governments are basically saying ‘We’ll provide the money when you provide the conditions, but the conditions can’t be met without the money.’ And it means the much-needed project is indefinitely stalled,” Routley said.

If the project proceeds, the E&N rail line would offer twice-daily runs from Nanaimo to Victoria, service to Qualicum Beach on Wednesdays and weekends, and service to Courtenay on weekends and statutory holidays.

— With files from the Times Colonist