Local politicians, representatives from organizations with a vested interest and members of the public gathered at the Langford train station near the Goldstream Avenue and Veterans Memorial Parkway intersection to call for action on the E&N corridor.
“We’re at the point where we have to stand up and make some noise … Let’s get on with it,” said Jack Peake, E&N Railway Roundtable (ENRR) spokesperson and chairman. “There have already been so many studies done … just take the facts and figures and make it go.”
Peake, co-founder and former co-chairman of the Island Corridor Foundation, noted the track between Langford and Victoria is in relatively good shape and the upgrades needed would not be as extensive as some believe. “It’s not an insurmountable amount … we’re not talking about a major hurdle.”
Combined, Peake noted the 15 members of the ENRR have roughly 115 years of experience in the railway industry. “That’s what we bring to the table.”
The ENRR hired a private rail contractor to give them an estimate of the cost of repairs between Langford and Victoria. Based on that, the groups predicts it would take an investment of less than $25 million to get a commuter rail service running between Langford and Victoria.
“If this wasn’t here, think of what you would have to go through,” Peake said, noting the cost of upgrading the corridor is nothing compared to what it would be to start from scratch. “You couldn’t put it in today, you couldn’t afford to.”
However, he did note one of the biggest hurdles rail is facing is the lack of cohesion between the different levels of government, public groups, the Island Corridor Foundation and First Nations involved in the conversation. He added that not once has everyone sat down at the same table to work on a plan.
“It needs co-operation from everybody and that’s not what we’re getting right now,” Peake said. “It’s time we pull together in one group … if the province is the main organization so be it.”
Langford Mayor Stew Young was in attendance, along with Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins.
“Our main concern in Langford is preserving this corridor. We have to find a way to relieve the congestion going downtown for our residents,” Young said. “This is a corridor that should be preserved. It’s been around for a hundred years and it should be for another hundred years. You’ll never replace or duplicate this corridor anywhere on southern Vancouver Island.”
Young noted it’s important to move forward as quickly as possible so the track doesn’t deteriorate any further.
“Our council envisioned there would be a train service,” Young said, adding council changed the city’s official community plan to accommodate and promote residential units along the tracks so people would be able to walk to the service.
“Langford has spent $2 million in putting in controlled crossings when there’s no train … this is costing tax payers up and down the Island.”
A little more than a dozen people gathered in the rain for the Friday event. Due to scheduling conflicts, several politicians and groups sent their regrets along with statements in support of reviving rail traffic to be read.
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Dick Faulks, a member of the Island Transformations Organization, also shared his thoughts at the event.
“We have a problem with the ministry … corridors across the province are not being used.”
He noted the Ministry of Transporation and Infrastructure favours highways, buses and the SkyTrain over surface rail transportation.
While he said the Island’s “transportation spine” – the E&N corridor – rots and rusts, other major cities are working to expand their rails systems. “This terrible situation we have must be addressed by changing the policy,” he said.