Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples was taken in a hi-rail truck on Oct. 10, 2019, along the E&N Railway from Duncan to Nanaimo to inspect the condition of the railway. Pictured, from left, is Al Kutaj, a superintendent with Southern Railway Vancouver Island, Andrea Thomas, the Island Corridor Foundation’s manager of corridor development, the ICF’s CEO Larry Stevenson and Staples. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples was taken in a hi-rail truck on Oct. 10, 2019, along the E&N Railway from Duncan to Nanaimo to inspect the condition of the railway. Pictured, from left, is Al Kutaj, a superintendent with Southern Railway Vancouver Island, Andrea Thomas, the Island Corridor Foundation’s manager of corridor development, the ICF’s CEO Larry Stevenson and Staples. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Realistic figure to get Vancouver Island rail up and running $254 million: CEO

“The question should be why have we not already begun?”

The CEO of the Island Corridor Foundation says they can get the Island Rail Corridor back up and running for both freight and passenger service for about $254 million, and he’s hopeful that the province and the federal government will see the wisdom in going ahead and come up with some cash.

This follows a report released last week by the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure that made headlines with its eye-popping estimate that more than $700 million in upgrades and maintenance would be needed to get the corridor, owned by the Foundation, running.

Larry Stevenson, CEO of the Island Corridor Foundation, said while he thinks the province’s report is good, and believes most of the numbers are realistic, a functional railway, at a level supported by the Island’s current needs, can be achieved for a lot less than $700 million, and that when one looks at all the numbers in the report this is clear.

“I thought it was very unfortunate, they released the report and everybody automatically ran to the very big numbers,” he said. “I’ve been very clear over the last year and a half, two years. That’s not a surprising number to me. You can spend those kinds of dollars in those types of scenerios. My own personal view is that it’s just not required today.”

The province’s report divides the work and costs of the rail line upgrade into three phases, and it’s important, Stevenson said, to look at it that way. The first phase, which includes only basic infrastructure upgrades to return very limited service to the line at an estimated cost of $326 million doesn’t go far enough in improving the railway, he said.

“It doesn’t provide the train speeds that would be necessary, or the loading capabilities that would be necessary to support ongoing train operations. It would be like saying I need a car, but I got a scooter,” Stevenson said.

The “ultimate plan” that would include all three phases for a cost of $728 million is also not needed at this time Stevenson said.

What needs to be done, he said, are phases one and two. This would return service to the line from Victoria to Courtenay, and also heavy freight from Nanaimo to Port Alberni, along with a more modest commuter service on the south Island (not the “state of the art” $595 million commuter rail service from Langford to Victoria that was included in the report). The province projects phases one and two to cost $552 million, and this is where Stevenson takes issue with the figures.

Included in this estimate is a 50 per cent contingency, that doubles the cost of the construction, he said, and a more realistic figure would be a 20 per cent contingency. With the adjusted number, and tailoring the project to the different regions on the Island and their needs, he brings the figure needed for phases one and two in at about $254 million It’s a number, he said, that for a big infrastructure project is very reasonable, pointing out that the McKenzie interchange project in Victoria cost $96 million.

“They’re a rounding error compared to what our government is prepared to spend in Vancouver.”

“There’s no question,” Stevenson said, that the project should go ahead. “It should have been started Monday, five years ago.”

With the federal and provincial governments looking to try to help the economy get back on its feet, and looking for green projects, he sees an opening for infrastructure spending on a project like this.

“This is a phenomenal, shovel-ready project,” Stevenson said. What’s needed to move ahead are things like railway ties, gravel and labour, all of which could come from B.C. and benefit the economy. “The question should be why have we not already begun?”

infrastructure

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

My FED Farm, created by Food Eco District (FED), is aiming to help people affected by the COVID-19 grow food in their own back yard. The program is in collaboration with Sooke Region Food CHI, Transition Sooke and the Sooke Garden Club. (File - Black Press Media)
Sooke backyard food program returns

The Sooke Backyard Food Program is returning for a second year. Sooke… Continue reading

Father Marinaldo Batista, who served at Catholic parishes in Saanich and Sooke, died April 1 in Brazil from complications of COVID-19. (Facebook/St. Elizabeth Church)
Brazilian priest who served in Saanich and Sooke dies from COVID-19

Father Marinaldo Batista, 53, went to Brazil to visit his parents and died there April 1

Colwood resident Maria Curcic shows off a one-of-a-kind hat that she created. Curcic is one of several artists that took part in the annual Stinking Fish Studio Tour. (Contributed - Maria Curcic)
Curtain closes on Stinking Fish Studio Tour

The Stinking Fish Studio Tour will live on through the lasting legacy… Continue reading

Colwood restaurants can use city property for patios. (Black Press Media file photo)
Temporary patios back on for Colwood restaurants

Council voted to extend temporary permits to 2022

A photograph of the real firearm beside the replica firearm seized by VicPD in the early hours of April 18. (Courtesy VicPD)
Police seize loaded firearm, drugs during traffic stop in Victoria

Officers find cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl along with loaded handgun

Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and vacation bookings are being increased in B.C. (B.C. government)
Out-of-region B.C. vacation bookings, RV ferry reservations to be refused, Horgan says

B.C. extends COVID-19 indoor dining, group fitness ban until May 25

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Wickaninnish (Clifford Atleo) plays the drum while singing the Nuu-chah-nulth song on the court steps in Vancouver In a picture from April 2018. Photo credit, Melody Charlie.
Five western Vancouver Island First Nations celebrate legal fishing victory

Court ruling confirms Nuu-chah-nulth fishing rights in case dating back to 2003

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
BREAKING: Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
Island Health seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

VIHA says Ladysmith-area Chakalaka Bar and Grill also violating water and sewer regulations

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. to open up AstraZeneca vaccines for all people 40+, set up clinics in hot spots

A total of 13 neighbourhoods and communities will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine

Most Read