A VIA Rail dayliner Budd car rolls away from the Langford station

Rail proposal leaves out Langford commuters

Nanaimo to Victoria run proposed for initial passenger service

Coun. Lanny Seaton isn’t impressed.

Despite more than $200,000 in studies, years of waiting and even the inclusion of rail in Langford’s Official Community Plan, the proposed rail schedule by the Island Corridor Foundation doesn’t initially include commuter rail from the city to downtown Victoria. And Seaton doesn’t understand why not.

“The most lucrative part is from Langford to Victoria, but what we are talking about is running a train (from) Nanaimo, dropping people off (in Victoria) at 9 a.m., which is too late, and leave at 2:30 p.m.? I don’t know an employer that is going to allow you to work less hours a day because you are riding a train to work.”

Seaton was visibly upset Monday night during a hastily scheduled presentation by ICF chief executive officer Graham Bruce to Langford council and a few members of the public. Bruce outlined a proposal to revive rail service on southern Vancouver Island that would see a partnership struck between Southern Railway, VIA Rail, the ICF and the many municipalities along the existing route.

“This is not the end schedule, this is the first schedule and the whole notion here is just to get the train running as soon as we possibly can,” Bruce told councillors and Mayor Stew Young. “That is why the twice daily would initially be five days a week and run from Nanaimo to Victoria and increase as the work is done.”

The partnership would see the federal and provincial governments contribute $7.5 million each and the five regional governments put up a combined total of $3.2 million.

The Island Corridor Foundation would add $2.2 million and Southern Rail, which would run the operation, would chip in $500,000 for a grand total of $20.9 million.

Initial plans call for service between Nanaimo and Victoria.

All work on track upgrades would be tendered, Bruce said, and as the work is completed up to Qualicum Beach and beyond to Courtenay, the passenger service can be extended.

A commuter service between the Station Avenue stop in downtown Langford and downtown Victoria could be put in place later on, with a one-way fare of $5 to $7, Bruce said.

“That is what the initial project was all about, to get rail back and running for a 10-year period on Vancouver Island,” he said. “This is not a commuter service, this is an inter-city service and that is what this is designed for in meeting the needs of all of the Islanders. Although (schedules would) be adjusted as we find greater opportunity.”

Bruce said the federal and provincial funding has been approved and VIA Rail would subsidize the operation with up to $1.4 million, but any costs above and beyond that would be covered by Southern Railway.

Track maintenance and repairs wouldn’t begin until federal and provincial funds were in hand, with the goal to see the first train in operation sometime in 2015. Bruce said the passenger service would utilize refurbished Budd cars.

Despite Bruce’s assertions that more runs could be added down the road, Young wasn’t confident those runs would serve Langford in the way he had hoped, which was to alleviate some of the stress on the roads during commuting times.

“My concern is if Southern Rail is the one setting the schedule, then what kind of dialogue are they having with the communities that are actually along the rail line?” he said.

alim@goldstreamgazette.com