EDITORIAL: Passenger rail needs teamwork

ICF needs to involved West Shore communities in planning stages

Previous excitement around the potential to gain commuter rail service from the West Shore in to Victoria was dampened recently when Langford council received an update from Island Corridor Foundation executive director Graham Bruce.

The ICF’s plans call for passenger trains to eventually run from Nanaimo to Victoria in the morning, returning before the end of the business day.

To simply reverse the direction of the previously cancelled morning service isn’t enough to make this service relevant, as Langford councillors pointed out last week to Bruce. The most pressing need for more mass transit options is clearly from Mill Bay south, not Nanaimo, and plans for passenger service to Victoria should take that into account.

Are there too many players in this equation to create a business plan for passenger service that makes sense? Perhaps. The ICF, Southern Railway and Via Rail come to the table with differing levels of commitment.

Southern Rail clearly wants financial help to repair its tracks. Via Rail, which cancelled its Dayliner service several years back, isn’t keen on throwing more money at a losing proposition, but is still the operator of choice.

The ICF sees passenger service as a key ingredient to the long-term success of the project, but we fear it’s being hamstrung in its efforts to institute a better commuter system by the massive costs involved, and the need to partner with groups that are motivated by different goals.

If the ICF wants buy-in from the West Shore municipalities that could be most affected by passenger service, it needs to involve them more in the planning stages of such a service. Otherwise it comes off as nothing more than another private company offering its version of a transportation option to Victoria.

The Island doesn’t need some romantic notion of rail travel as the motivation to help address today’s transportation challenges. It requires taking into account where the main problem areas are so that common-sense decisions can be made to make it happen.