Is SkyTrain To Langley Derailed?

No surprise here.

The escalating cost to build with light metro, due to Covid 19, means there is little money in the pot to further extend the light-metro to Langley.

TransLink is said to be in a state of shock as former customers are leaving transit in droves and not coming back. Over 80% of the Expo and Millennium Lines ridership first take a bus and with the light metro system purposely designed as a “spine” taking all suburban transit traffic into Vancouver by train, the collapse of bus customers means the mini-metro is operating with extremely light loads.

As the light metro system costs about the same to operate with either light or heavy loads, the lack of revenue is severely testing TransLink’s bottom line.

If no additional federal or provincial money is forthcoming, TransLink will be in severe financial distress by summer and hitting up the taxpayer for more money may mean political suicide for the current mayor’s sitting on the Mayor’s Council for Transit.

The Broadway subway is more and more becoming a political and a financial liability and a cut and cover solution to stem the escalation of construction costs, a la the Canada Line, will mean the end of political life for those who support cur and cover subway construction.

The current rumour has it that the subway will be built and what money is left over from the $4.6 billion pot will extend the Expo line East until the money gives out. Present planning shows about 3km of at grade construction, which defies the ‘raisin d’etre’ of a light metro, will create “Berlin Wall” effect on the Fraser Hwy., complete with 3 metre, barbwire topped fencing.

The Berlin Wall effect of at-grade ATC operation, complete with 3 metre, barbwire topped fencing.

The Expo and Millennium lines desperately need a $2 to $3 billion rehab, which again, pushes the financial crisis even further.

It seems the Expo Line extension to Langley has been derailed and one could say, the SkyTrain to Langley has served its purpose for the Mayor of Surrey, with Langley Mayors left at a station, waiting for a train that will never come.



Surrey Langley SkyTrain project stalls due to COVID-19 pandemic

by Carlito Pablo on May 27th, 2020 at 11:55 AM
  • The 16-kilometre rapid transit line from King George SkyTrain Station to Langley City Centre is estimated to cost $3.1 billion.
  • The 16-kilometre rapid transit line from King George SkyTrain Station to Langley City Centre is estimated to cost $3.1 billion. TRANSLINK

Just like almost everything, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected planning for Surrey Langley SkyTrain project.

A report to the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation notes that there are “several outstanding issues that must be addressed for the SLS project to advance”.

The report was prepared by Geoff Cross, vice president TransLink for transportation planning and policy, and is included in the council’s agenda Thursday (May 28).

The council directed TransLink to refer the business case to senior governments for approval, which the transportation agency did, according to Cross.

The project would extend the Expo Line 16 kilometres on an elevated guideway from King George Station to Langley City Centre along Fraser Highway.

According to TransLink, the rapid transit line includes eight stations, three bus exchanges, park and ride spaces, 55 SkyTrain vehicles, an operations and maintenance centre, and supporting system upgrades.

There is approximately $1.63 billion in available funding, enough only to extend the line to Fleetwood.

The extension from King George Station to Fleetwood is seven kilometres, and involves four stations.

In his report, Cross noted that before the pandemic, the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project was the “primary impetus” for an update to the regional transporation’s investment plan.

The updated plan was “targeted for approval in July 2020”.

“However, following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 it was decided that delivering a Phase Two Investment Plan update in July was no longer feasible due to uncertainties in projecting future revenues,” according to Cross.

Cross noted that the business case for the project is already with senior levels of government, and “scope could readily scale with additional funding”.

“However, it is fiscally prudent to wait until the nature and magnitude of emergency relief and stimulus programs is more certain,” Cross wrote.

According to the City of Surrey, construction for the Surrey Langley SkyTrain was set to begin in early 2022.

Follow Carlito Pablo on Twitter at @carlitopablo


6 Responses to “Is SkyTrain To Langley Derailed?”
  1. Emily says:

    Does this mayors council even have a clue or plan B if Alstom stops making MALM aka ‘SkyTrain’ entirely? Then what would they do?

  2. Haveacow says:

    The article reads that there are, “several outstanding issues that must be addressed before the SLS project can advance “. Hardly surprising considering that, nearly all the most needed funding needs were in the last or part 3 (Stage 3) of Translink’s 10 year funding plan.

    That part 3 money was desperately needed for new Mk. 3 Skytrain (4 section) trainsets, a new or greatly expanded Skytrain maintenance and storage yard, money for the second parts of both the Broadway and Langley Skytrain extensions and a whole wack of new buses for regular service and Translink’s pretend BRT lines, mostly mixed traffic operating, occasionally operating in painted Bus lanes, express bus lines, with really nice bus stops. Not really BRT.

    Not forgetting that there was more cash for more right of way and some system upgrades for the existing Skytrain Network. This yet unfunded part 3 also in included special monies for bus maintenance facility upgrades as well. So there was money going everywhere for everything.

    Do I here buyers remorse kicking in! In any mature transit and rapid transit network there is always a huge battle between service expansion versus system maintenance. There is never enough for both,especially now. I think several people at Translink are probably wishing that, all of that part 2 funding was redirected away from the Surrey to Fleetwood Expo Line extension, to more of those less sexy but definitely needed, bus and Skytrain maintenance facilities upgrades as well as more new buses. I think Zwei is right that, no one at Translink wants to mess with the Broadway extensions but are befuddled with the Langley extensions.

    Remember over half of the new Skytrain orders (The ones that were replacing all 150 of the really old Mk. 1 cars) were coming in part 3 of the 10 year plan, none of those expected orders have a guaranteed price on them anymore . Now that Bombardier is no longer in charge, the prices may go up on what Alstom sees as an inherited product, and not necessarily a positive one. This means part 3 of the plan could possibly increase in price quite dramatically or things get cut from the plan or both happen.

    I do see a big slice of cash coming from the Fed’s for restarting the economy but the issue always was and still is, can Translink afford its 25%-33% portion of the total bill?

    Unlike Zwei, I see the public coming back quickly to public transit but there will be changes. On O.C. Transpo in Ottawa as of June 15th, masks are mandatory for all passengers, no exceptions, face shields and gloves are highly suggested if you want extra protection. This rush back to Transit will cause vehicle and train availability problems because a lot of families can’t afford their second car right now. In a recent poll here in Ottawa, many second cars will be parked for up to a year or more because of changes in income resulting from the virus. The slow decline in Covid-19 cases (hopefully) means people are going back to work but money is still very tight for most families here and will be in very short supply for quite awhile.

    Zwei replies: The big problem for TransLink is that a large portion of ridership goes to post secondary education centres. And these transit customers use the U-Pass. If remote education becomes more of a norm (as both UBC and SFU are indicating) much fewer students will be traveling and in a cash restraint, there will be demands to stop forcing the U-Pass onto students. If this happens, TransLink will be in serious trouble.

    As for bus travel, my wife works in town part time and now is back to work, she will drive from now on as taking the bus is just problematic. I can see the Vancouver/Burnaby/New Westminster/Richmond ridership somewhat returning, but for the outer burbs including Delta/Surrey/Langley nada.

    As I said, political suicide to increase taxes at this point in time as the mayor of Vancouver is going to find out very soon.

  3. Haveacow says:

    One clarification my son said I should add about Translink’s 10 year plan. He was quite right to point out that I didn’t highlight this point enough.

    Part 1 & 2 (Stage 1 & 2) projects of the 10 year plan are funded but Part 3 (Stage 3) projects are completely unfunded!

    Could some Part 3 (Stage 3) funding be coming soon as emergency economy restart money, yes, but there are conditions with this funding, most of it will require provincial and local funding commitments to use this federal emergency infrastructure money, it’s not free money.

    Zwei replies: I have heard from a reliable source, that the costs for both projects are escalating rapidly, due to covid-19 and new provincial regulations including about who can and who cannot work on the project. At this point of time, they cannot do both.

    Evidently a trial balloon was floated about cut and cover on Broadway and maybe all at grade SkyTrain in Surrey. If true I do wish I was a fly on the wall!

  4. Haveacow says:

    Not to worry, Universities in Canada get a large portion of their federal and provincial funding on a butt-in-the-seat basis. No butt in the seat, no federal or provincial funding. It’s also very difficult for arts, science, medicine and engineering professors to get research grant money unless you have a certain number of students (undergraduate and graduate) to do the research. Professors at Canadian Universities must teach, there are very few that just do research on their own. Will there be more distance education (online, cable TV and radio) yes, without students on campuses, there isn’t enough money or activity.

  5. Nathan Davidowicz says:

    Many problems at TransLink. They try to cover them in their In-Camera meetings.Sonner or later the prov govt will wake up and make changes to TransLink.
    Maybe will will have a premier like the late Dave Barrett that in three
    yrs 1973 to 1976 has doyble the transit service.

  6. Major Hoople says:

    The NDP government, when they signed the agreement with Bombardier to build SkyTrain to Coquitlam, were seriously contemplating at grade SkyTrain along the Lougheed Highway, to reduce costs of the project. Fortunately the idea was rejected in favour of stopping the Millennium Line at Broadway to save money.

    Originally, the Millennium line was to go as far as Main Street, making the Great Northern Way an area for advanced business, but the high cost to extend to VCC Clark meant a truncated line. There was talk of extending SkyTrain further to Cambie or Granville St. but nothing ever came of it.

    The Millennium Line caused much dissent within the NDP, with many long time supporters staying home at election time.

    The party hierarchy have never understood the large support they had when light rail was being planned, but union jobs prevailed.

    Like Mr. Zwei, I too have penned letters to the premier and Travenna, but I do not get an answer.

    I see the same mistakes happening once again.

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