What will become of the long-unused E&N railroad? Will we see commuter service return? Will it become a multipurpose trail? We’re going to have to wait a bit longer to find out, as a proposed study of commuter rail service between the West Shore and Victoria is on hold while the government looks at future possibilities for the entire E&N right of way, as opposed to just that section.
Last March, former BC Liberal minister Todd Stone said a study would be undertaken. “I have said I expect a business case to be completed and on our desks, ready for the next government to consider, so that we can finally move forward with commuter rail here in Greater Victoria,” he said at the time.
Following that, the call was put out for a consultant to examine the feasibility of using the E&N rail corridor between Langford and Victoria as a regional transit route, with a stipulation that the report was due in about four months.
Transportation Minister Claire Trevena confirmed yesterday, however, that the study never proceeded. “We pulled back on the [request for proposals] on that one and just wanted to look at the whole corridor rather than that specific E&N section of it,” she said. Subsequently, the ministry said that it couldn’t go ahead with the study because of the election, the extended transition period which followed, and the inability of officials to consult with First Nations or get the contract in place by the deadline. “When the new government reviewed the situation, it was determined that a feasibility study could not proceed at that point without proper consultation with the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations,” the statement said. “The E&N corridor runs through their traditional territories and communities. And, any decisions on the use of the corridor must include consultation with these communities.”
Trevena has talked to Esquimalt-Metchosin NDP MLA Mitzi Dean about leading discussions with First Nations and regional governments. “We’re engaged trying to make sure we have complete First Nations involvement with it,” she said. “We’ve been having conversations with mayors on it. So it’s very much in my sight line but it’s going to take a little bit of time.”
Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins says a decision is long past its due date. “I think it’s unfortunate that we didn’t follow through with the study down here, because as we all know, we have this corridor, it’s not being used and the congestion is not getting any better,” she says. “So it would be wonderful to do the study to understand what are the options on that corridor, so that when we are able to make a decision — either in this section or the whole corridor — we can move forward and do it quickly.”