Many islanders want an alternative to the Malahat and one of the potential options involves the recommissioning of the E&N railway between Nanaimo and Victoria.

A discussion about rail travel on the island was the focus of a recent meeting.

This high-level meeting included the Minister of Transportation, First Nations leaders, municipal politicians, and even the Premier and Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley said First Nations representatives have some deeply rooted concerns.

“The (rail) line bisects a lot of their reserves, so it makes some of their land inaccessible, unusable or presents a clear danger to children and people along the line and that needs to be dealt with,” said Routley. “We need to negotiate new opportunities for First Nations along the line and suggest that the location of stations could present economic opportunities.”

Routley was at that meeting and said, in his view, this mode of transportation is a ‘no-brainer.’

“There’s a very narrow footprint for a railway, infinitely expandable by scale, with more trains, more frequently,” said Routley. “On an island where we have very limited resources in terms of, how do we expand roads? We value our lifestyle and natural habitat here and we have to do what we can to invest in the future and I think it’s important that we do that.”

An engineering study is required and needs to be in the context of the entire south island transportation network and how to expand it and plan for future growth.

Other potential alternatives to the Malahat include a bridge over the Finlayson Arm section of the Saanich Inlet or ferry service between Cowichan Bay and Sidney.