New head named for Vancouver Island railway corridor foundation

The entity that could bring new life to Vancouver Island’s railway corridor in the future now has a leader.

It was announced on Tuesday that Thomas Bevan has been appointed the new CEO of the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF).

According to a release, Bevan is a seasoned urban planner, with over a decade of experience in real estate development, including leading successful projects that prioritize affordability, walkability, and transit-oriented development.

As a development manager with BC Housing, his project management portfolio includes the 390-unit mixed-use Te’tuxwtun development in Nanaimo in partnership with the Snuneymuxw First Nation, the 900-unit Evergreen Terrace redevelopment in Victoria, and the 2,000-unit Skeena Terrace redevelopment next to SkyTrain Rupert Station in East Vancouver. Each project is amongst the largest BC Housing in its respective cities.

“I am honoured to serve our members and all Vancouver Islanders and will begin by listening and learning,” said Bevan in a statement.

“A great deal of heart and effort has been invested in this project fuelling many differing opinions over many years. My passion lies in working with communities to bring them together to co-create plans that respond to the needs and aspirations of the people who live in these communities.”

Bevan begins his new role in June. He replaces Larry Stevenson, who is departing the position after about six years.

“We are thrilled to welcome Thomas to the ICF,” said Daniel Arbour and Judith Sayers, co-chairs of the ICF. “His experience, energy, and collaborative approach are exactly what we need as we explore the full potential of the Island Corridor for the benefit of all Vancouver Islanders. Thomas will champion relationship-building with First Nations, regional districts, and the provincial government. Under his leadership, the ICF will continue to listen to communities and explore creative solutions that optimize, protect, and preserve this important corridor.”

The full extent of the north-south railway corridor on the eastern side of Vancouver Island runs a total distance of about 225 km between Victoria and Courtenay.

The corridor was previously known as the Esquimalt and Nanaimo (E&N) Railway, and its initial segments date back to the late 1800s.

vancouver island rail corridor route map

Map of the Vancouver Island railway corridor. (WSP Canada/Government of BC)

In 2003, the ICF, a non-profit society, was created by First Nations and regional districts along the corridor to preserve, own, and manage the railway for transportation uses. After much negotiations, in 2006, Canadian Pacific donated the entire north-south rail corridor to the foundation, while Rail America donated the short west-east segment it owned between Port Alberni and Nanaimo.

Throughout most of its history, the railway corridor was owned by Canadian Pacific, which provided Via Rail with the responsibility of operating the passenger service starting in 1979. Via Rail’s remaining passenger rail services ended in 2011 due to the poor condition of the railway.

In recent years, there have been renewed discussions over reactivating the corridor for both freight and passenger uses, including a 2020 feasibility report commissioned by the provincial government that estimated a cost of over $700 million to bring the railway up to standard for inter-city passenger service.

In 2023, following a court-mandated deadline for a decision, the federal and provincial governments announced they would return a small segment of the corridor to the Snaw-Naw-As First Nation, while also preserving the corridor across Vancouver Island for transportation uses. The provincial government also provided $18 million in funding to conduct long-term planning for the future of the corridor.