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ICF announces passenger rail breakthrough

It looks like there is still a future for passenger rail on the Island.

The trains were halted in 2011 over concerns about safety, but the Island Corridor Foundation says there’s a tentative deal in place between VIA Rail and Southern Rail to get the trains running again.

Mary Ashley is co-chair of the ICF. She says the deal will free up $20 million in federal, provincial and local government money.

VIA’s Jacques Gagnon stresses this is just a tentative deal and more negotiations have to happen before it’s finalized.

ICF Executive Director Graham Bruce also says the agreement still has to be ratified before any work to upgrade the E&N Line can begin. It’s expected to take about 9 months to complete the basic repairs that will enable the service to begin.

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The ICF says Nanaimo will be the base of all operations. That will allow for an early-morning commuter trip to Victoria. Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan says he’s pleased about the decision.

The initial schedule still has to be fine-tuned and the ICF says minor schedule alterations are possible once the trains are up and running.

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