Provincial, municipal and First Nations leaders and members of the Island Corridor Foundation met at the Victoria Conference Centre recently to discuss reinstating service on the E&N Rail Line. The meeting was called on Dec. 10 by Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Claire Trevena.
Both rail and bus line options were discussed, and by the end of it Premier John Horgan, who attended the event, assigned several staff members to further investigate what it would take to get the project going and which mode of transportation would be best.
“A commuter rail between Victoria and Langford is important,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “We are here to strongly support the province in moving forward with this project.”
On the City’s draft strategic plan, establishing transportation on the E&N rail line is listed as something that needs to happen “without delay.”
“That’s more of an aspirational statement,” Helps said. “But I think the province does see this as a priority.”
Helps said if this project would move forward, it would first and foremost need approval from the Esquimalt an Songhees First Nations, whose lands it intersects. Esquimalt representatives were at the meeting, but Songhees were not.
She also envisioned it going forward in several stages, with Victoria to Langford as a priority.
Helps said she gathered from the meeting that it was no longer an option of if the project will go forward, but how.
“Now the province needs to take leadership,” she said. “It’s down to is it buses or is it trains. The bottom line is we want that corridor to move people.”
Langford Mayor Stew Young, who was also at the meeting, was not so certain.
“The province has not been taking this as seriously as they should,” Young said. “I’m encouraged, but I’m not holding my breath.”
Young was frustrated that for the past seven years the non-profit Island Corridor Foundation has been running the lines when it was federal and provincial support that was needed.
“It costs almost as much money to manage Island Corridor with no train running as it does to run it with a train,” he said. “This is a federal and provincial corridor, and I’ve seen nothing from the provincial government in recent years … If the province doesn’t take it over, it’ll never work.”
Young said the need for the transportation corridor to become operational is very necessary for Langford residents, who are more and more discouraged to travel to downtown Victoria due to high traffic and limited parking.
“It was important to have the province at the table,” he said. “But if we don’t see something moving within three months, it’s a waste of time.”
Helps said she hopes to see something in place by 2022.