Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Does ICF Know What They Are Doing?

The Cost To Resume Rail Service
Seems A Well Kept Secret

Going back to July 2010, then Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Shirley Bond released the findings of a study of the E & N railway which in part stated:
"The study evaluated the cost to improve major sections of the line to support specific markets, as well as considering a full-corridor upgrade. It concluded current volumes of freight and passengers do not support significant infrastructure investment at this time."

Then in June 2011 (one short year later) Christy Clark amid much fanfare rode into town and announced the province would kick in $7.5 million contingent on a study to determine the cost to repair the line, and the feds contributing matching funds. (She may have secretly hoped the feds would back out, leaving her off the hook).

Then in April of this year, MP James Lunney announced the feds would put up $7.5 million with the caveat that that was 'all' the funding from that source.

Now, it seems the ICF still need many millions more and are pitching for a property tax levy to raise another $6 million still needed to get the E&N running again.

I seem to remember a report from long, long ago that estimated it would really cost in the order of $150 million to bring this line up to proper standards. Whatever happened to that study and why do we know think that $20 million or so can do it?

I admire all the hard work supporters of the rail line have put into trying to keep it alive, staunchly believing there is still a future for rail on Vancouver Island, in spite of the fact, there has never been a business plan put forward to support the notion it will ever be self supporting or financially viable.

So, presuming that the ICF can come up with another $6 million, and presuming this is the 'real' amount it will take to get the train running again, what assurance do we have that they will not once again come with cap in hand in six months or so wanting yet another tax levy to keep a non viable train on the tracks?

To read the 75 page 'Evaluation of the E & N Railway Corridor Foundation Report, click on the following graphic.



  1. I was very disappointed to learn that the train may be coming back. It does not serve Nanaimo needs. I would rather see the railway bed converted to a gravel bike path, similar to Galloping Goose Trail in Victoria. We would attract bike tours from around the world. Residents in communities along the route would be able to enjoy the path. What a great way to experience Vancouver Island and become fit at the same time. The train is a big nuisance as far as I am concerned. It interferes with traffic and is not financially viable. I do not support spending tax money in this manner.

  2. Every time this train gets a few million here or there, it seems like that's the end of it. A few days later they come with another story about needing even more money.
    Will this train ever be anything more that another money-sucking vortex?
    I doubt it, there was a good reason VIA was only too happy to unload this rail line.

  3. Over Taxed Taxpayer1 August 2012 at 12:36

    Enough already.....this train set has only been funded with taxpayer dollars.....they have a study that says it will take over $120 million to bring the line up to speed, predict it will almost never be viable, and Mr. Bruce and company keep coming with these nickel and dime routines and as a group they have zero credibility in their ability to run a peanut stand let alone a railroad.
    Enough already, find something else useful to do with the land....no more tax dollars down this hole!

  4. I think that Anonymous 31 July, 2012 10:39 AM has a great idea .... use the rail bed for a bike path, which would also attract tourists!

    I recall when Nanaimo City Council placed the ICF on the permissive tax exemption (property tax) list. Times Colonist editorial, “Time for E&N accountability”, May 1, 2012, advises in part:

    “The Island Corridor Foundation can be forgiven some shortcuts in its early years. But it has existed since 2004, and has had control of the rail line for six years. It has received millions in government support.

    The foundation should now voluntarily adopt the same principles of accountability and openness recommended by the auditor general and publish proper three-year plans, annual performance reports and audited financial statements.

    The corridor is being managed in trust for the public. The citizens have a right to know what's going on with such an important asset.”
    - Janet
    Read more: http://www.timescolonist.com/business/Time+accountability/6545768/story.html#ixzz22LRTNF1f

  5. This rail line has never made sense economically, and it never will. I have cycled and hiked on the "railway" between Parksville and Port Alberni, and it is the definition of decayed. It has been out of use for a decade, and unmaintained even longer. It would make a world class cycle trail connecting the East Coast of the Island with Port Alberni without battling semis and RV's around Cameron Lake and over the Hump. This could attract more international tourists to cycle or hike our Island, and use the Marine connection provided by the Lady Rose to connect right to Ucluelet and Tofino. I personally proposed this very idea to Ron Cantelon, who said he planned on seeing trains running there again. The tracks are incredibly overgrown,the ties are rotted, and you can pull out most of the spikes with two fingers. I can only imagine how large a trainload of money it will take to reopen as a railline.
    Sell the many tones of steel rails for scrap, and use that money, and some of the $15 millin the governments are handing out, and make something useful, and a real economic asset.

  6. Those who think rail is dead aren't thinking about what will happen if we ring down the final bell. And what will happen? Almost before you can say "Bob's your uncle!" millions will be proposed for more TCH improvements in the Victoria region and millions more will be spent planning the LRT routing coveted by Victoria-focused transportation bureaucrats and other Victoria-area interests.

    If the E&N is retained and developed at a fraction of the cost of those two scenarios, every penny spent will have been well worthwhile. Transportation bureaucrats have already spent in the neighbourhood of $8 millions planning the LRT route that has not been given a blessing by anyone. That would cover a lot of bridge repairs and tie replacements!

    In the Victoria area several municipal leaders have signed on to the idea of E&N improvements to get a commuter service started soon -- not 10 years from now.

    The E & N does have options given the situation apart from asking ratepayers to pony up the bridge money. One option would be to end the tie replacement programme at Nanaimo and leave refurbishing the rest of the line for another day. That should leave an ample amount for bridge repairs in the kitty because Nanaimo is about half way to Courtneay on the E & N and the current funding of $15 millions is designed to cover tie replacements from Victoria to Courtneay.

    This option has another advantage: it leaves it open for the government to tell the Raven Coal mine interests that approval to go ahead will only be granted if their product is shipped by rail and that they substantially if not entirely finance the necessary rail upgrades. If that happens more than a one in five tie replacement programme will be needed for the Union Bay section of the line: In fact the line will have to be entirely rebuilt to modern standards from Union Bay to Port Alberni.

    Something to think about -- it's the long term that matters with the E & N, and I've not even mentioned the need to cut down on car and truck traffic to help curtail carbon emissions.

  7. Anonymous (the last one), if that is your real name.
    You make some valid points about the possible advantages of rail, but don't address the 2010 report which indicated at least 120 million for capital to upgrade the line. That combined with the fact there has never been a credible operating plan put forth to let taxpayers know what the REAL ongoing costs of running this line might be. Do you really believe that ending the line at Nanaimo will provide for a viable rail line?
    The lack of credible information coming from ICF does nothing to bolster confidence in the organizations ability to actually run a railroad.
    How one study can call for a 120 million capital upgrade and then in the next breath turn around and say 15 - 20 million might do, just stretches all bounds of credibility.
    Has anyone ever seen a viable business plan, everyone I ask just shakes their head, and says....we need a rail line, that's all.


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