A Vancouver Island rail line is being touted as the way forward in the Comox Valley by the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF).
Executive director Larry Stevenson says recent flood events closing the highway to Victoria highlighted a limited transportation system on the Island. Stevenson argues having a train from Courtenay down to Victoria would allow for transport in extreme events and could be faster.
The project cost, with support from other communities, would be about $1.3 million per kilometre, according to Stevenson, with a train that could travel around 80 km/h depending on the train location.
The total project cost would be around $381 million with an additional $50 million for equipment. Board directors questioned the amount as mainland rail lines cost about $340 million per kilometre.
Stevenson says this is because of land acquisition and other requirements that are not needed with the Island corridor already existing.
The system would be a full rail service with multiple trains, according to Stevenson, including three trains per day coming from Courtenay to Victoria.
Reconciliation with First Nations would also be a large portion of the project and its relationship building.
“There’s going to be a decision and we are in a position today where we do have the risk of losing that corridor,” said Stevenson. “The government itself is forecasting it will take two hours and 45 minutes to get from Mill Bay to Victoria, that’s coming to you in the future.”
He adds the project requires a “50-year lens” to see the benefits of the project.
Board members brought up concerns considering Islanders being used to not having trains on the Island along with the travel time and the cost difference of building the rail line.
“There was nothing mentioned around crossings in the communities that have now adapted to not having a rail line moving through neighbourhoods,” said director Melanie McCollum.
Stevenson says all crossings are up to standard, and there would not be a responsibility for communities to upgrade crossings for the train.
Bike lanes would also be a possibility to be added alongside the train tracks to promote active transport, according to Stevenson.
The CVRD Board received the report and include ICF in their orientation and strategic planning.