Taxpayers' true cost for a Vancouver Island passenger rail service agreement is $3 million per year, not $1.8 million, Via Rail says.
The Island Corridor Foundation has put considerable pressure on Via recently to respond to its rail service proposal, submitted in April, to get rails and bridges fixed so passenger service can run again.
Before poor track conditions ended passenger rail in 2011, Via paid a floating subsidy, which reached as much as $1.9 million in its highest year.
ICF wants Via to pay a fixed $1.8-million subsidy, or $400,000 more than Via is willing to pay.
But the costs don't end there, Via says.
"The proposal also requires a one-time pre-paid infrastructure maintenance fee of $6 million," said Mylène Bélanger, Via Rail spokeswoman, by email.
As a federal Crown agency, Via is subject to the same cost-cutting requirements Ottawa puts on federal departments, and its budget for rail operations gets cut back further each year.
Via said to accurately account for its cost, the Island rail agreement must include the infrastructure maintenance fee, worth $1.2 million annually over five years. Add in the $1.8 million ICF wants, and Via's annual subsidy is worth $3 million annually. "Additional funds are not available to allow (Via Rail) to increase its deficit funding of the Vancouver Island service," Bélanger said.
Via Rail is "prepared to provide passenger rail service on Vancouver Island" provided it doesn't exceed $1.4 million, she said.
Graham Bruce, ICF executive director, was invited to comment on Via's statement, but did not respond by press time.
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