Rebuild the Island Rail Line

railcar at NanaimoVictoria business leaders, the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Victoria, Cruise BC, and Victoria Shipyards among others are urging the province to join with the federal government and the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) to invest seven million dollars a year over five years in rebuilding Vancouver Island's rail line. Job creation, business growth, and a link to the Pacific Gateway are cited as key reasons for wide-spread business, political and citizen support. Tourism, transportation, and the environment all stand to benefit substantially.

Across the island, investing in rail has gained extraordinary support from business leaders, business associations, MLA's, local municipalities and over 6,000 signed up supporters from every walk of life. On Monday, the legislature's all-party Finance Committee called for the province to support upgrading the existing rail line in order to support plans for commuter rail and Victoria's newly-elected Mayor Dean Fortin said he wants to bring Island mayors together to lobby for the rail improvements. Nanaimo's new mayor John Ruttan has also come out strongly in favour of saving the railway.

In last Saturday's municipal election, Colwood and Langford voted 93 per cent in favour of commuter rail service from Langford to downtown Victoria, with all levels of government funding improved infrastructure. All these supporters are convinced the $7 million a year over five years (or $9.33 a year, on a per capita basis, for each of the next five years) is a sound investment in the island, its people and its economy.

Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Carter said, "We have a languishing line running from Courtney ... to Victoria ... to Port Alberni. The line holds tremendous potential for revitalizing the Island's freight capacity and, as a beneficial by- product, improving our capacity to move people. Revitalization of freight service on the Island Corridor would be an economic driver that would benefit the whole Island."

"The renewed commitment of both the federal and provincial governments to infrastructure spending as a means of fighting the economic downturn must surely extend to revitalizing our historic railroad - a project which itself will create over 1,100 high paying full time jobs over five years and since most of the materials (ties, aggregate etc.) would be sourced on the island, millions and hundreds of other jobs in supplier opportunities," said Mary Ashley, co-chair of the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF).

Respected Victoria business leaders Cedric Steele and Ross Tennant warn that time is running out, pointing out that the next provincial budget is being put together right now. They stress the need to make sure the funding for rail is included while there is new emphasis on federal infrastructure funds. Steele, CEO of Cedric Steele and Associates says, "It would be tragic to lose our rail facility at the very moment when Victoria and communities up and down the island need efficient, environmentally friendly rail for moving people and goods."

Tennant, President of Three Point Properties, says "A renewed rail system will move people and products safely and efficiently, reduce traffic congestion and play a big role in helping to maintain our island lifestyle. It's good to see this initiative finally gaining broad-based political support."

Russ Helberg, Chair, Vancouver Island Economic Alliance says, "The Vancouver Island Economic Alliance believes that we are at risk of losing our operator, Southern Railway, if investments in the infrastructure are not made now. There is a very short window of opportunity to save the rail bed after which time, it will be unbelievably costly to restore."

The business case for the project includes four integrated services:

1. Rail freight linking Island business to the Pacific Gateway
2. A wide-range of tourism-based opportunities including the potential for a first class excursion service.
3. Commuter rail options
4. Enhanced intercity passenger services.

The merits of the business case are unassailable when these interconnected business opportunities work together supporting a modern environmentally sound transportation infrastructure. A renewed corridor also lays the groundwork for an environmentally sound integrated public transportation system that connects buses to trains, park-and-ride facilities and bike and walking paths along the corridor. A commuter rail option on the Langford to Victoria route alone could remove the equivalent of 280,000 passenger trips a year and 700 cars a day on the roads.

The Island Corridor Foundation is a partnership of First Nations, five regional and 14 municipal governments that took ownership of the 290-kilometre rail corridor in 2006 on behalf of the people and communities of Vancouver Island. Under an agreement with the foundation, Southern Railway of Vancouver Island acts as the rail operator for both freight and passenger services. VIA Rail, which offers the current passenger service, is fully supportive of the revitalization plan. Visit Island Corridor Foundation for more information.

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