Sooke District is joining several Island communities urging the federal and provincial governments to commit money and resources to the Island Rail Corridor.
The move comes at the request of View Royal council, which will take the issue to the Union of B.C. Municipalities annual convention in the fall.
But time is running out to save the century-old rail line as a court deadline looms.
Last fall, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled the lands which make up the rail corridor could not be held indefinitely and gave the federal and provincial governments a March 2023 deadline to decide whether maintaining the corridor was in the public interest and to decide whether they wanted to restore the rail line and be willing to help fund it.
“This is a short window of opportunity,” said Coun. Tony St-Pierre, as Sooke council voted to send a letter of support for the View Royal resolution. “(The E&N Railway) is actually the backbone of development for the Island.”
Coun. Dana Lajeunesse added the rail line historically has been a vital part of the Island transportation network and will be in the future.
The Vancouver Island Railway, first known as the Esquimalt and Nanaimo (E&N) Railway, was launched by Victoria coal baron Robert Dunsmuir in 1886 to support the coal and lumber industry and the Royal Navy Base as Esquimalt. In recent years, the railway operated between Victoria and Courtenay. It has not provided passenger service since 2011 due to the poor condition of its tracks.
The Island Corridor Foundation – composed of six members representing regional districts and six representing First Nations within the corridor — has been searching for federal and provincial support for a $431-million rail system that will offer a passenger and freight service.
– with files from Justin Samanski-Langille