The Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) wants to fully restore Vancouver Island’s shuttered rail service, releasing a business case this week in another push for provincial and federal government funding.
On Monday, the non-profit said upgrades to the entire 290 km rail system, which stretches from Victoria to Courtenay and Parksville to Port Alberni, would cost $431 million.
ICF says construction costs for the project would total $381 million, with another $50 million needed for the acquisition of rail equipment.
But it’s a proposal that also comes amid a deadline.
A BC Court of Appeal ruling from last September states the federal government has until March 2023 to decide whether it wants to contribute funding to restore the island’s rail line.
In its case, the ICF points to a mixed-use rail system with peak hour commutes in the Langford to Victoria corridor, plus passenger service twice daily between Victoria and Courtenay to support tourism.
Freight operations would span the entire system, with an emphasis on ports in Port Alberni and Nanaimo, according to the foundation.
Passenger trains stopped operating on the island over a decade ago in 2011.
ICF’s case also follows recent extreme weather events, including last fall when an “atmospheric river” swept through and temporarily closed parts of the Malahat to vehicle traffic, renewing a call for rail service.
“We are very pleased to bring forward the business case as it defines the very real and urgent need for safe, efficient, reliable, and environmentally sustainable transportation options on Vancouver Island,” said ICF CEO Larry Stevenson.
The foundation anticipates revenues would soar past $16.6 million each year against annual operations costs of just under $12.8 million.
“It also demonstrates that the proposed rail system can address those needs, it is financially viable, and can be sustained for future generations,” added Stevenson.