The renewal of rail service has the strong support of more than 84 per cent of Greater Victoria residents according to a new survey from the Island Corridor Foundation.
Less than 5 per cent of the region’s 82 respondents said they were either ‘not supportive’ or ‘somewhat unsupportive’ of restoring service. Overall, 62 per cent of the survey’s 429 respondents were ‘very supportive’ of rail service, while nearly 18 per cent were ‘not supportive at all.’
“There’s nothing really surprising (in the report),” said Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton. “Everyone seems supportive of retaining the corridor for some purpose (and) everyone seems to be fully supportive of it being rail service.”
Among the feedback received by the ICF, support for a Langford to Victoria commuter service received frequent mention, while many respondents showed support for tourism trains that could service cruise ship passengers, skiers and wine tours.
Prioritizing rail repairs, upgrades and services incrementally based on economic feasibility and seeking government funding accordingly were other common themes to emerge in the report.
While the existing E&N tracks don’t pass through Colwood, Hamilton has been a part of discussions at the CRD and sees her role as being one of engagement with BC Transit, which would ultimately have to play an important part in the success of any commuter rail project.
Hamilton recalls that rail efforts have been ongoing since her husband, Arnie Hamilton, was the MLA for Esquimalt Metchosin in the early 2000s.
“We don’t need more studies to study this to death, we need commitment. Are we or are we not interested in keeping the corridor viable for some use?” she said.
Rail received the least support from the 75 Parksville and Qualicum Beach respondents, where 44 per cent of respondents said they were ‘not supportive at all’ of a renewal of rail service, but all other regions surveyed were behind the restoration of rail service in the survey results released last week.
The continued development of rail-with-trails within the corridor received strong support from more than 48 per cent of respondents and mild support from another roughly 21 per cent.
In terms of next steps, the report said Southern Railway of Vancouver Island will provide cost estimates for upgrades to the rail infrastructure and foundation staff will prepare five-year financial projections. The board will choose a preferred rail infrastructure option and establish goals and performance indicators for a business plan.
However, Graham Bruce, foundation CEO, said it was too early to discuss business plan timelines as the board is hoping to meet by the end of this month to discuss the results.
It is a step in the process, he said.
“They haven’t had a chance to collectively come together to review the information and so this is just that information that was gathered, it was posted, made public … we wanted to share it with everybody initially,” said Bruce.
For the full report, click here.
–with files from Karl Yu, Black Press