Thursday, December 15, 2011

New Group Advocating Saving the E&N

The E&N Railway Action Group announced their existence today.  Jack Peake and Jim Sturgill are concerned about how the Island Corridor Foundation is looking after the rail line.   It has been more than five years now that the ICF has owned the railway.  

I have been wondering for some time what the plan is for the rail line and what the ICF is actually doing.  I know they ask for over $100 million at one point to upgrade the line.  The ICF website has not been consistently updated, it still lists Jack Peake as mayor of Lake Cowichan, a position he has not held for some time.

I have no idea how well the ICF is run what does it cost to run and what revenues are coming in?  If there are no revenues, how can it be sustained?  


Text of their press release:

New E&N Action Group demands better governance and transparency from Island Corridor Foundation


ICF founder expresses concern that Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway is in jeopardy


Thursday, December 15, 2011: Vancouver Island railway professionals and advocates today announced the formation of a new E&N Railway Action Group, which will act as a watchdog to advise the public about challenges to the Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway, and governance issues with the Island Corridor Foundation, which oversees the E&N rail corridor.


“I am concerned that the ICF, a public non-profit organization, is not presenting any detailed plan for the future of the E&N, and has closed out important advisory committees from its decision-making,” says Jack Peake, a co-founder and former co-chair of the ICF, and a spokesperson for the new Action Group. “I fear that without input from the public, and professionals who have been involved with the railway for years, the E&N could be lost. With the VIA Rail cars having been removed from the island on November 5, this concern has never been more real.”


The ICF acquired the E&N Railway in 2006, as a donation from Canadian Pacific and RailAmerica. On March 19, 2011, daily VIA Rail service between Victoria and Courtenay was suspended after the track was found to be no longer safe for passenger trains. This prompted the ICF to step up its request for $15 million in federal and provincial funding to fix the E&N’s decaying infrastructure. However, the ICF has not publicly released any detailed plans on how this money will be spent.


Until recently, the ICF received suggestions and information from a Rail Operations Advisory Committee, chaired by Peake, and consisting of veteran railway professionals. “ICF executive director Graham Bruce told me that the ICF no longer needs our committee,” says Jim Sturgill, who operated trains on the E&N route for over 25 years and is a railway consultant. “The committee could help plan the ICF’s $15-million project, to ensure that the money is used effectively and will be adequate. I think the $15 million is a good first step, and could be used to get a commuter train running between Langford and Victoria, as I fear it will not be enough to repair the entire line.”


The ICF’s original funding request was for $103.8 million in 2008 for which a detailed plan was presented.


“We want to promote the railway and ensure it receives the funding it needs, but first we need transparency and public involvement,” says Peake, a former Lake Cowichan mayor who also led the public drive to save the historic Kinsol Trestle. “The E&N is owned by the people of Vancouver Island. The ICF board consists of elected representatives from five Regional Districts and five First Nations along the corridor. But ICF board meetings are not public, and its commissioned reports and financial statements haven’t been released. That is what our new group is demanding.”


The action group has also launched a website, saveislandrailway.org, where the public can learn more about the E&N, and get involved. The E&N turned 125 years old this year: on August 13, 1886, Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald drove the last spike for the railway at Cliffside, near Shawnigan Lake.


Contacts:


Jack Peake:
jack@saveislandrailway.org E-mail


Jim Sturgill:
jim@saveislandrailway.org E-mail
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