What is the VITCC?
The Vancouver Island Transportation Corridor Coalition (VITCC) is a non-profit society incorporated under the laws of the Province of British Columbia.
Our goal is to bring modern, efficient, and low-environmental-footprint rail service to Vancouver Island as the core of the Island's passenger and freight transportation system, integrated with other transportation modes. One which enables and supports diverse, inclusive, and sustainable community economic development and employment.
Every year traffic on Vancouver Island grows worse. Both from people moving here but also from those already residents who are seeking more affordable homes in other Island communities, even if it means longer commutes.
However, the current approach to managing traffic, namely building expanded and new roads, only leads to more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while destroying life-giving open space, like our wetlands. It also draws people and businesses from walkable downtowns, leading to a lack of opportunities, social neglect, and decay. And roads, as we have seen, are increasingly vulnerable to delays and closures, thereby impeding the timely movement of people and products.
Vancouver Island needs a better long-term transportation strategy and rail can provide an alternative option.
The VITCC seeks to develop public and political support for Island Rail. Our tactical work includes growing a broad coalition of partners, including government and non-government groups, to help achieve these goals.
To make rail a reality we need your voice! Click Here to find out how you can take action!
What Do We Want?
Vancouver Island, and the islands that adjoin it, encompassing unceded ancestral First Nations territory, is blessed with an amazing combination of spectacular scenery and a supremely livable year-round climate. These elements, blended with rich natural resources, offer an admirable, attractive quality of life.
To build on and reap the fullest benefit from what we have we need to ensure that our communities are affordable, diverse and inclusive, healthy, safe, opportunity-rich, and sustainable.
The key is having an accessible, attractive, convenient, and environmentally sustainable freight and passenger transportation network.
Our island can benefit from a modern and efficient rail service that integrates with all other forms of transportation including cycling, bus, taxi, park and ride facilities, and more. The facts are that rail service can move people in comfort and with an efficiency of up to twenty-five times less GHG emissions. Freight also is far more efficient to move by rail than any other form of transportation.
Additionally, tourism services and trips by rail connecting with cruise ships in Nanaimo could also be made over to Port Alberni and along the scenic rail corridor that exists as part of this journey through the pass below Mount Arrowsmith. The positive impacts on tourism can be huge. Smaller towns like Chemainus, Ladysmith, Parksville, and Qualicum Beach, or even more industrial communities like Port Alberni, could see massive economic benefits from such tourism operations.
Commuter Rail in the South Island and CRD region to support immense and continuous growth is a must. Intercity Rail running in a configuration such as Nanaimo-Victoria-Courtenay-Victoria-Nanaimo would provide a service that serves everyone and not only a select few. Travelling to the Nanaimo Airport? It's right along the corridor. Regular medical appointments in Victoria from up-island could be done in a far more relaxing and stress-free manner by rail.
Rail is certainly a viable alternative and would help alleviate congestion for those that do travel by road. Buses are not an equal alternative, they’re subject to the same highway delays caused by accidents, traffic, and weather events. A highway closure, traffic congestion, or weather (snow) would NOT affect the rail corridor or any service running on it.
Furthermore, the continuous increase and overload of transport trucks and their subsequent safety risks on our island's highways could also be significantly reduced utilizing the superior freight benefits of rail transport. Restored rail service in ALL forms would be immune to the existing highway challenges AND get you and freight up and down the Island safely.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that rail reduces GHG emissions and helps make people's lives better, both directly and indirectly whether you personally use rail as your primary mode of transportation or not.
Unfortunately, there are increasingly daunting issues facing the ability to realize this strong, positive vision for our communities.
• Loss of life-giving open space, farmlands (i.e., local food supply), and forestry and fishing resources to private-vehicle-oriented, unsustainable, and taxpayer-subsidized low-density greenfield sprawl and highway overbuilding.
• Rising GHG emissions, leading to extreme destructive weather, which, along with vehicle-caused pollutants, harm the health of people and that of other species.
• Too many struggling communities with high unemployment and underemployment, with too few opportunities, and too-high social costs.
Our heavily polluted and congested Island Highway is currently the only option for moving people and goods between our communities.
The ONE practical alternative to the highway is rail. Yet in too many places it has been neglected, resulting in the suspension of passenger train service.
We CANNOT afford to lose rail. If that happens it will accelerate demands for more roads and with them increased pollution, sprawl, climate change, risks to our water supply, economic losses, and social inequality.
There is a way forward that can help realize the positive vision for Vancouver Island and resolve many of the challenges and limitations facing us here.
That route is Island Rail, which will revitalize the former E&N Railway, whose tracks are still in place between Victoria, Nanaimo, Courtenay, and Port Alberni. The railway corridor is owned by the people of Vancouver Island through the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF).
There is at present limited rail freight service in the Nanaimo area. However, more can - and should - be done.
• Linking communities with affordable, accessible, efficient, environmentally sustainable, and reliable passenger trains operating on convenient schedules.
• Enabling seamless connections with buses, ferries, and flights.
• Providing active transportation (bikes, e-bikes, and boards) and personal and on-demand vehicle
access to the trains.
• Supporting excursion tourist-focused passenger trains to Island attractions.
• Focusing smart growth commercial and residential transit-oriented development (TOD) at train
• Developing freight train service to serve more Island businesses and foster growth at local ports.
Why Island Rail
Why Island Rail? Here are the benefits:
• Proven ability to create a modal shift for people and goods from highways.
• Can also easily accommodate bikes, boards, and mobility devices safely inside trains.
• Fewer greenhouse gas and other emissions. Trains produce 1/3 the CO2 emissions of personal
vehicles per passenger kilometre travelled, and 1/2 that of buses.
• Proven ability to promote transit-oriented development (TOD) through examples all over the
• Flexibility. New designs and regulatory changes permit next-generation lightweight and efficient
commuter railcars to share the same tracks as freight trains.
• Reliability. Rail is immune to existing highway challenges including congestion, closure, and winter weather events.
More communities, in areas similar in density and population to that on Vancouver Island, are revitalizing their rail networks. Some of these examples include:
• In the U.S., notably California (SMART, in Sonoma and Marin counties), also the SPRINTER (between Escondido and Oceanside), New Jersey (Camden-Trenton RiverLINE), and Texas (Capital MetroRail, between Austin and Leander, also the DCTA A-train, northwest of Dallas).
• In the U.K., such as in Devon, the Scottish Highlands, and in central and coastal Wales. Known as Community Rail these services operate and are being returned to operation on rail lines that were closed or threatened with closure in the 1960s and early 1970s.
• Germany has a good rural and strong suburban rail network, and it has plans to reopen 20 rail lines serving these communities.
• And yes, in Canada, namely the Trillium Line in Ottawa, Ontario. It's time to make rail a reality for Vancouver Island!
The Business Case
The Island Rail Business Case
What will it take to make Island Rail and with it a vision for a strong, prosperous, and sustainable Vancouver Island a reality?
The ICF, which is comprised of the Regional Districts and First Nations along the corridor, along with their current rail operator, has been ensuring the safe operation of existing freight services and has devised a feasible and prudent plan to expand rail. The ICF is proposing a full restoration of the Victoria to Courtenay rail line, known as the Victoria Subdivision, as well as the secondary line from Parksville to Port Alberni, known as the Port Alberni Subdivision.
The ICF estimates that it would cost approximately $390 million, including $50 million for equipment, to restore the entire Island Rail network (both subdivisions) to permit a resumption of passenger and freight rail service.
The passenger service would run from Victoria to Courtenay and additionally from Parksville to Port Alberni. This includes commuter service running multiple times per day from Westhills to Victoria.
Freight service would run initially from Nanaimo south to Duncan, and north between Nanaimo and Port Alberni, but that could change and be expanded based on rail-freight need and demand.
To put that cost in perspective, taxpayers would have to outlay over $1 billion for a Malahat Highway replacement. One which would also cause untold huge sums in environmental damage.
In turn, the economic value of the rail construction alone is worth nearly $470 million, directly benefiting the BC economy.
The ICF also works with the Regional Districts and First Nations communities to construct trails alongside the tracks. There has already been over 100 km of trails constructed on the ICF right-of-way.
This provides a green active transportation corridor. When passenger trains return individuals will be able to ride and then take their bikes, boards, mobility devices, or walk to their destinations.
To provide these benefits, the ICF business case will require Provincial and Federal government funding to refurbish and restore the Island Rail network.
Now Is The Time To Act!
The Island Corridor Foundation needs YOUR SUPPORT NOW.
The ICF has until March 2023 to get a decision from the Federal and Provincial governments on whether or not they will fund the infrastructure project based on the September 2021 BC Court of Appeals decision in the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation versus ICF and the Attorney General of Canada case.
If a decision is NOT made prior to March 2023, the land could be subject to reversionary rights.
If that happens it could mean the end of rail.
That’s where and why we’re asking YOU to get on board!
What can YOU do?
Let your elected officials, your Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), the Premier, and the Minister of Transportation, as well as your Mayor and Council, and your Member of Parliament (MP) know that you support the rail network on Vancouver Island. Let them know why YOU think it is important and why YOU want your officials to invest in Island Rail.
Here’s how to reach your MLA or MP:
Here’s how to reach the Premier and the Transportation Minister:
BC Premier's Office:
PO Box 9041 Prov Stn Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 9E1
Minister of Transportation & Infrastructure:
Fax: 250 356-2290
PO Box 9055 Prov Stn Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2
Additionally, there is a petition HERE that we urge you to read over, sign, and tell others about it!
Finally, we’re asking you to join and become active with us.
Your membership, and activism, is needed to support our efforts to restore and support Island Rail. We are all volunteers and we rely on members, membership fees, and donations to make this happen.
THE Three CORE BENEFITS FOR VANCOUVER ISLAND RESIDENTS
Use the arrows or swipe left/right to navigate through the following core benefits.
Rail and the Environment
Rail can move people and goods more efficiently than private vehicles or transport trucks and drastically reduce GHG emissions. Modern and efficient commuter rail between the Westhills area and downtown Victoria could potentially take tens of thousands of cars off the road each day. Intercity rail that includes Victoria, Duncan, Nanaimo, Courtenay, and even Port Alberni will take many more cars and transport trucks off the road. This would have an immense positive environmental impact and greatly reduce GHG emissions.
The VITCC envisions a modern and efficient rail system as the backbone of Vancouver Island's future transportation system; a system that is fully integrated with ALL other forms of transportation modes including buses, cycling, equestrian, park & ride, electric hybrid cycles, taxis, air travel, ports, and more. Utilizing the Island Rail Corridor in this way and to its full potential provides the single most sustainable action we can take for the future of our region.