Who is Island Rail Corp?
Island Rail Corp (IRC) is a privately held corporation at the forefront of bringing together a consortium of local, national, and international companies that can support Vancouver Island’s vision to rebuild the Island Rail Corridor for future generations; all within the framework of Reconciliation with the First Peoples as its Partners. Our team, working closely with Island Rail stakeholders, has undertaken the research and data acquisition of private sector interest in the return of specifically freight-rail service to Vancouver Island; passenger-rail service being a byproduct of the former revenue producer. The IRC team has aligned with a number of key businesses and organizations along the Island Rail Corridor, including beyond Vancouver Island, that will benefit directly from a new and enhanced Island freight-rail service.
With identified partnerships and collaboration, IRC proposes a new vision for Island Rail operating heavy freight-rail service from Port to Ports between the West and East coast ports of Vancouver Island; Port of Alberni, and Port of Nanaimo, respectively. IRC also proposes regional freight-rail service to local businesses along the Island Rail Corridor that can benefit from direct rail service. Additionally, as a byproduct of revenue-generating freight service, IRC supports an intercity passenger service between Nanaimo, Victoria, and Courtenay as well as a higher frequency passenger rail service between Duncan, Langford, and Victoria. IRC envisions operating seasonal revenue-generating tourist trains as well between strategic tourism-centric Island Corridor points of interest.
The vision is strong and our collaborations stronger. Island freight-rail service and an enhanced Island Rail network and system will return; stronger, more dynamic, diversified, and capable than Island Rail has been historically without the IRC vision.
IRC recognizes the value and importance of First Nations involvement in the future success of the Island and its railway. As such, IRC has a strong desire and commitment to partner with the local First Peoples and Indigenous Leaders. IRC also understands and supports the need to have the sections of unceded corridor lands returned to these First Peoples and for all of these Indigenous Partners to share in the success and importance the Island Rail Corridor will have for the people of Vancouver Island over the next century and beyond. Working in partnership with Island Rail Corp, First Nations can participate in a superior modern rail network operating to its full potential, an Island Rail Corridor that will provide a GREEN Transportation System serving Vancouver Island and markets beyond; an Island Rail System that not only meets but exceeds the social and economic objectives of a sustainable future for generations to come. This is an inclusive and substantial opportunity for all.
To facilitate restoration, revitalization, and enhancement of all rail infrastructure on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, as the core infrastructure of a future transportation system to move Port to Port freight, people (public and tourists alike), and enhance intermodal and transload operations in support of rail-freight services moving bidirectional local, national, and international bound and originating freight commodities;
To foster a broad coalition of partners, including both government and non-government groups including the private sector and First Nations, who will aid in achieving these purposes;
To ensure such projects are undertaken in an environmentally friendly and socially beneficial manner, with a goal of reducing Island greenhouse gas emissions while also reducing Island highway congestion and simultaneously improving freight transportation efficiency;
To develop broad private sector, indigenous, and political support; and
To promote integration with ALL other forms of transportation; on and off the Island, including trucks, ferries and airports.
Port Alberni Deepwater Terminals
Island Rail Corp has identified a variety of freight traffic, nearly exclusive to Port Alberni industries and port terminal expansion facilitating the birth of a modern western port. This includes intermodal containers, finished lumber, paper products, wood chips, feed, poles, scrap metals, regulated commodities, slurries, aggregate, dimensional loads, and just about anything else that can move by rail. This rail traffic helps significantly reduce and keep excess heavy commercial vehicle traffic off of capacity-limited and already congested Island highways, particularly highways 4 and 19 between Port Alberni and Duke Point. Unlike highway transport, this freight shifted to rail will remain moving reliably in any and all extreme weather conditions, be economically and environmentally preferred, eliminate excess product handling (damage/loss), and pass on safety benefits to other road users. A western port in Port Alberni has the ability to handle Canadian, US, and global market supply chain goods, and the additional existing western port freight overflow due to current supply chain congestion. IRC will have an opportunity to move these goods arriving at a Port Alberni deepwater port by connecting these goods to their end destination via mainland Class 1 railway interchanges.
Port Alberni Rail Advantages
Rail from Port Alberni eliminates excess product handling (product loss, risk of damage);
Rail from Port Alberni accommodates 2-4 times more product moved per rail carload;
Rail from Port Alberni offers and allows for transit reliability in all weather conditions;
Rail from Port Alberni eliminates extended Vancouver Harbour vessel dwell time;
Rail from Port Alberni offers significant savings for ocean vessel turnaround time;
Rail from Port Alberni avoids West Coast Short Sea Shipping navigational challenges;
Rail from Port Alberni delivers and connects carloads direct to Class 1 railway networks;
Rail from Port Alberni significantly reduces commercial vehicle traffic on congested Island highways, passing on road safety and maintenance benefits to other users and Island taxpayers;
Rail from Port Alberni provides capacity and growth within a designated Foreign Trade Zone;
Rail from Port Alberni significantly reduces emissions by significantly increasing transit efficiency, moving 2-4 times more product while using 3-4 times less fuel, removing an excess of inefficient commercial vehicles from the road, and minimizing ocean vessel turnaround and port dwell time.
Vancouver Island's Foreign Trade Zone
Did you know Vancouver Island is a Foreign Trade Zone? Local, Provincial, National, and International shippers can benefit directly from associated trade zone advantages by utilizing Vancouver Island port facilities to move their products and goods. A direct Island Rail Corp rail link between Vancouver Island and North American rail networks will play a crucial role in maximizing this trade zone status by providing seamless end-to-end benefits to shippers both on and off Vancouver Island, importing, exporting, and moving their products anywhere.
Our Island Rail Stakeholders Being Explored
The private sector companies and organizations Island Rail Corp is meeting with each bring their own valuable industry experience and benefit to the table. Each can provide and gain tremendous social-economic and environmental benefits that will result from a rebuilt rail operation serving their business. All those we have and are meeting with have expressed support to the mandate of the Island Corridor Foundation, which is to preserve and protect the corridor for its continued use with rail; and all recognize the lands that make up the Island Corridor are unceded territory, an issue that must be addressed as a condition of the Island Rail Corridor meeting the needs of Vancouver Island for the next millennium and beyond.
Indigenous Peoples on the corridor that is the Island Corridor Foundation need to have the unceded territory resolved. Island Rail Corp supports this need and is pleased to lend our support to its resolution. It is our expressed hope that the rebuilding of contemporary rail will assist the Indigenous Peoples on the corridor in achieving their goals for a socio-economic and environmental future for them and all of Vancouver Island.
Frequently Asked Questions
There has been much confusion and misinformation associated with the Island Rail Corridor over the years and we're here to answer some of these questions and/or clarify any misconceptions while also making clear where Island Rail Corp stands as a company.
The Island Rail Corridor, as the railway corridor on Vancouver Island is known, runs from Victoria to Courtenay and from Parksville to Port Alberni. The railway on Vancouver Island was previously known as the Esquimalt & Nanaimo (E&N) Railway, owned and operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) until the end of the 20th century. In the early 21st century, ownership and management of the railway and lands were transferred to the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF). The ICF is not a railway company but solely a landlord for the Island Rail Corridor. The railway operation itself is privately operated by an independent rail operator under contract with the ICF.
The Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) is a non-profit organization that acts as the landlord of the Island Corridor and is made up of representatives from all Regional Districts and First Nations that the corridor passes through, from Victoria to Courtenay and from Parksville to Port Alberni. The ICF holds the lands of the railway corridor in trust on behalf of the people of Vancouver Island. The ICF is not a railway company and is solely an owner and manager of the lands the railway tracks are on, not the railway operation itself.
Island Rail Corp (IRC) is an incorporated and privately held company that, with identified stakeholders and collaboration, proposes a new vision for Island Rail. IRC is a privately held corporation and proposes operating heavy freight-rail service from Port to Ports between the West and East coast ports of Vancouver Island; Port of Alberni, and Port of Nanaimo, respectively. IRC also proposes regional freight-rail service to local businesses along the Island Rail Corridor that can benefit from direct rail service. Additionally, as a byproduct of revenue-generating freight service, IRC supports an intercity passenger service between Nanaimo, Victoria, and Courtenay as well as a higher frequency passenger rail service between Duncan, Langford, and Victoria. IRC envisions operating seasonal revenue-generating tourist trains as well between strategic tourism-centric Island Corridor points of interest.
First Nations bands the Island Rail Corridor serves are directly consulted and involved with Island Rail Corp (IRC) strategy. All local nations will benefit from a fully operational Island Railway with the social benefits of passenger service and the economic benefits of freight service. Working in partnership with IRC, the First Nations can participate in a superior modern rail network operating to its full potential, an Island Rail Corridor that will provide a GREEN Transportation System serving Vancouver Island and markets beyond; an Island Rail System that not only meets but exceeds the social and economic objectives of a sustainable future for generations to come. This is an inclusive and substantial opportunity for all.
Island Rail Corp has identified a variety of freight traffic including intermodal containers, finished lumber, paper products, wood chips, feed, poles, scrap metals, regulated commodities, slurries, aggregate, dimensional loads, and just about anything else that can move by rail. All this rail traffic helps significantly reduce and keep excess heavy commercial vehicle traffic off of our already congested Island highways. On the passenger side, IRC supports intercity passenger service between Nanaimo, Victoria, and Courtenay, as well as higher frequency rail service on the South Island in the busy and largely populated CVRD and CRD regions. IRC envisions operating seasonal revenue-producing tourist trains as well between strategic Island Corridor points of interest. All passenger and freight rail services help keep excess passenger and commercial vehicle traffic off of our strained Island highway links. Rail service, passenger and freight, will remain operating reliably in any and all extreme weather conditions; much to the contrary of our highway system.
At capacity, a large number of trains can independently operate over all portions of the Island Rail Corridor on a daily basis. The frequency of these trains can vary between geographical areas with higher passenger frequency on the South Island and high freight frequency from Port to Port over the Port Alberni to Nanaimo rail corridor. Not every train operates on a set schedule and as such, anytime is train time. In addition, track patrol and maintenance vehicles can be expected to be present on or around the Island Rail Corridor at any time. Once fully rebuilt and operational, increased rail activity on Vancouver Island will require accustomization.
This is a commonly misunderstood question. The underlying corridor land the railway tracks are on is indirectly publicly owned by the people of Vancouver Island and managed by the ICF in trust. However, the railway tracks themselves are private property as they remain an essential part of any active rail operation. Therefore, the simple answer is yes; rail on Vancouver Island is private property. As such, trespassing on the Island Rail Corridor can legally be enforced by the RCMP under the federal Railway Safety Act of Canada. Do not trespass on the Island Rail Corridor for reasons of legality and the safety of yourself and others. Public use of a designated trail or pathway within the Island Corridor right of way is of course permitted with clear separation from the railway tracks themselves.
Island Rail Corridor infrastructure upgrades will be funded as part of a Public Private First Nations Partnership (PPFP) or P3 with costs shared largely by the Private Sector and additional funding provided by both Federal and Provincial levels of government.
Once the Island Rail Corridor is entirely rebuilt, passenger service will be offered as part of both an intercity and separate higher-frequency passenger rail service. Excursion train service will be operated as well. The date for the start of these passenger rail services is to be determined and will be based on infrastructure construction completion, among other operational factors.
Interested in aligning with or contacting IRC?
To contact the IRC team, email [email protected]
Prefer the phone? Please email us to schedule a callback.
We welcome the support of all interested stakeholders in coming ‘On Board’!