The UBCLiner: Chilliwack to UBC – the 6 am through service.

December 2021 – The UBCLiner: Chilliwack to UBC – the 6 am through service.

First posted by on Monday, October 12, 2009 · Updated July 17, 2017

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The following is a short tome on a student’s Monday morning commute from Chilliwack to UBC, via the interurban and the Broadway streetcar line and illustrates what can be realistically achieved with light-rail and the variant TramTrain, for a fraction of the cost of a SkyTrain subway to UBC. The longest tramtrain route on Karlsruhe’s famous Zweisystem is 210km. long where triple articulated cars, including ‘Bistro’ cars offer a 30 minute service from Karlsruhe, to the outskirts of Stuttgart, including on-street operation through towns including Heilbronn.

Zwei’s note 2017: The story is even more relevant today as Hwy. 1 was closed all day Saturday due to a major incident, there was no “transit” option available to Valley residents. Only political ennui and MoT hubris is stopping the TramTrain project and hopefully with a change of government, will bring fresh thinking about regional transit.

The time: 6am

The date: December 2, 2021

The 6 am diesel LRT service from Chilliwack to Vancouver, which  now terminates at the University of BC on the newly opened Broadway light rail line, is locally called the UBCLiner. The UBCliner consists of a two car diesel LRT and diesel/electric hybrid LRT train-set; the hybrid diesel – electric LRV is designed to operate both on electrified and non-electrified rail lines.

Every morning the UBCliner departs the Chilliwack loop precisely at 6 am and very shortly traverses the ‘flat’ crossing with the Canadian National Railway on its mainline. As one passes, one can see the foundations for the new rail overpass that will shortly replace the level crossing, which will be needed with the recently opened Fraser River Rail Bridge which will soon allow an increase of the Interurban service to the Fraser Valley and Chilliwack.

There is light snow falling and local roads are very slippery, but all is unnoticed as the UBCliner speeds on to Vancouver. In the freak blizzard in 2019, the valley interurban was never stopped by ice and snow and provided a timely transit service throughout the emergency, with trains running 24 hours a day.

The UBCliner is an express service which stops only at Huntington, Abbotsford, Langley, King George Highway, Scott Road, Pacific Central Station, and UBC; not only carries passengers but express mails and courier parcels. The triple articulated diesel – electric light rail vehicle, also has a small parcels compartment and a self serve ‘Bistro’, serving coffee, tea and snacks and is complete having a chemical toilet.

The two car train-set quickly speeds up to 90 kph and sets off through Sardis and Yarrow, which station platforms already occupied by customers waiting for the the 6:10 local service to Vancouver. In just 25 minutes, the UBCLiner stops at Huntington, where a small contingent of passengers board and more mail is loaded. In two minutes the train leaves and shortly passes the uncompleted junction to the Abbotsford airport, which in a few month provide a direct Vancouver to YXX service and minutes later stops at the Abbotsford station, where more passengers embark.

At Clayburn, the train crosses the flat crossing with the Canadian pacific Railway and one can see the nearly completed two track flyover which will replace the old level crossing. In two years time, Abbotsford will see a 15 minute through service to Vancouver, which is needed with the ever increasing passenger loads on the present 30 minute interurban service.

Maintaining a speed of 80 kph to 90 kph, the express train travels through largely rural areas and in a short time joins the the double tracked section shared with the Delta Supper Port coal and container trains. At Glover Road and the Number 10 Hwy. by-pass, is the beginning of construction of a tram line which will run along the median of the Hwy. 10 to the Serpentine Bridge in Surrey, reconnecting with the old interurban route to Vancouver. Express trains will still continue to track-share along the existing rail route, but local trains will take the Hwy 10 route as it more directly serves businesses, Willow Brook Mall and the proposed 200th street LRT.

After a quick stop in Langley, the UBCliner continues through Surrey, making stops at King George Highway and Scott Road, before descending to the new Fraser River Rail Bridge, which is three track lift span, replacing the rickety swing span, which now will provide ample accommodation for freight trains, the  four return AMTRAK passenger trains services to Portland and the new diesel LRT service to North Delta and White Rock. Speeding up to 90 kph, the UBCliner heads to Pacific Central Station, passing several new overpasses being built to counter increased rail traffic along the Grandview Cut route.

At Pacific Central Station, the UBC Liner uncouples with the second diesel LRT unit, releasing the pantograph to connect with overhead wires and once the mails and courier parcels are unloaded by 8 am, proceeds to Main Street, acting as a streetcar, powered from electricity and continues along Main St.  to the Broadway light rail line. Connecting to the new Broadway Line, which route operates mostly on lawned rights-of-way, complete with shrubbery, making a median of Broadway a long linear park. The journey is slower as the UBCliner is operating on tram or streetcar tracks and there are stops every 500 metres or so.

The aroma of coffee pervades the crowded interior of the car as passengers drink coffee and/or work on their laptops for the last leg of their journey. This is still an express service and no passengers are picked up at stops, except for the very busy stop for the Vancouver General Hospital. It is morning rush hour and the UBCliner now is following a local service to UBC. With full priority signaling the UBCliner continues to its destination  going up 10th Ave. from Alma, but as soon University Blvd. is reached the train accelerates to 80 kph to ends its journey at the mall loop at 8:35am.

The UBCliner returns to Pacific Central Station for regular operation valley operation, Vancouver to Chilliwack, but will return to UBC for the 6pm express to Chilliwack, for those who want to take advantage of a direct service to Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack.

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