Langford Mayor Stew Young is more hopeful about the future of commuter rail on the West Shore than he has been in some time.
Young’s optimism is the result of conversations he’s had with Transportation Minister Todd Stone and B.C. Transit, including separate meetings with both parties last week, regarding the future of the E&N rail corridor and Langford’s desire to give downtown commuters another option to get to work.
“There’s good news now. It’s better news than we’ve had the last four or five years,” Young said.
“When you get politicians together for the common good, it’s going to really make a difference getting this train up and running again.”
The longtime mayor says the addition of another corridor into town is crucial for the growing municipality, and that growth has made the service more viable than ever.
Langford added more than 6,000 residents over the last five years according to the 2016 census, an increase of 20.9 per cent.
Beyond those figures, Young points to his municipality’s increasing density, as well as the density along the existing E&N route, as statistics that point to the potential for a commuter rail service. “It looks better from a viability standpoint than when there were 25,000 people living in Langford 10 years ago,” he noted.
He also mentioned that options beyond traditional rolling stock might be looked at, including a bus/rail hybrid that would give the service added flexibility.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, “there are a number of things that would need to be addressed in order to upgrade the rail line and ensure service is frequent enough to benefit commuters.”
“We look forward to continued discussion on this proposal,” the statement concluded.
Young plans to engage with First Nations groups in the coming weeks and hopes that significant progress can be made in a matter of months.
“It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of meetings. We’ve been spending a lot of time on trying to get it right and making sure the numbers are correct,” he said.
He also isn’t concerned about the effect the provincial election might have on the process, believing that “everybody will support this.”
In the end, the future of commuter service along the E&N line will still depend on a number of factors, the most significant being the securing of funding. But Young is confident an opportunity still exists to move on an idea that has been the subject of circular discussions for the better part of a decade.
“From what I’m seeing, there is no other option except to get some people moving on that transportation corridor.”