Extended Report: Why commuter rail working group may be more than just another study

The BC Government is getting on board to produce a business case for commuter rail in Greater Victoria, due in the summer.

"I'm very pleased to announce that we have formed a working group that… the province will lead. We will complete the business case with the goal being to finally get on with commuter rail here on the E&N line from Langford into Vic West." That was the announcement from Todd Stone as he stood with local mayors beside the currently unused E&N rail line.

There were no details on items such as cost, stops, ridership numbers, or what kind of train would be used. Minister Stone said those are the details they'll have once the business case is done. If it adds up, the province can take it to the federal government to seek their support.

"We haven't been at this place... where you have the full support of all the mayors in the region, the province at the table, the federal government interested," said Stone, "we are on the cusp of something pretty special, but we've got to finish the work together."

Many spectators were hoping for more solid news, not just another study, but Langford Mayor Stew Young told the crowd it is still a big move forward, "the missing link in this whole thing, to move commuter trains forward on this corridor, is the provincial government. This is the first time we've actually had the provincial government here saying 'you know what? We like the idea, we're going to move forward.’"

Young also says another piece of the puzzle is that the owner of the E&N rail line, the Island Corridor Foundation, has agreed to let them use the Victoria area stretch of the rail corridor.

This all comes after the developers of the Bayview Place condo project already put their own money into a study of a rail link between the West Shore and the Roundhouse property in Vic-West – a property they're developing. They’ve had municipal governments and BC Transit at the table for that study and Bayview Place Development Manager Chris Reiter says what they found is "promising." It’s their study that’s got the attention of the province.

Minister Stone agrees the study is worthwhile, "our initial analysis of that report is that there is something here. There is some merit in doing a much deeper dive on this."

While the developer wouldn't say much more about what’s in their study, in the past they’ve said they think it'll take about $10-million dollars to repair the tracks and get the service started and that a further three or four million dollars annually would be needed to help subsidize the train.

Reiter says having BC Transit involved has also made a big difference in making the idea viable, "they've been at the table with us to make this work as one unified system, which is key to the whole thing."

Now we see if the province also finds the results "promising" after further scrutiny.

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