Last week’s federal budget didn’t divvy out funding to repair the E&N rail line, but funding could still emerge, says the MP for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca.
NDP MP Randall Garrison said the federal Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities still has the $7.5 million request on its radar, but indicated “further study” on a number of rail projects in Canada is needed.
“They haven’t said ‘no’, but they haven’t said ‘yes’ either,” Garrison said. “(The money) wasn’t specified in the budget. I’m sure if it was, they would have crowed about it.”
The Island Corridor Foundation has applied for $7.5 million in federal funding to match what the province has committed.
The ICF estimates $15 million could rehabilitate the 290 kilometre E&N track and fund a limited VIA rail service between Nanaimo and Vic West — and a few daytime trips between Langford and downtown.
Garrison is eager to get commuter rail on track to serve hundreds of people travelling to the Esquimalt Graving Dock for the upcoming federal shipbuilding project. Fixing the track is expected to take a year and the limited VIA rail operation would last about two years, according to the ICF.
Garrison said he’s not sure why the feds are leaving the E&N funding in limbo, although the Ministry of Transport could still allocate money in its internal budgeting.
“It’s an austerity budget, but I would argue the E&N isn’t an expense, it’s an investment. Keeping the line viable will create full time jobs, it will contribute to the local economy for the long-term,” Garrison said. “And in terms of the federal budget, it’s not a lot of money.”