Abbotsford News – More ammo for light rail service through Valley

More ammo for light rail service through Valley

By Jeff Nagel – BC Local News

Published: September 21, 2010 1:00 PM

Updated: September 21, 2010 6:07 PM

A new Chilliwack-to-Surrey light rail line could whisk passengers from deep in the Fraser Valley to the existing SkyTrain system in 90 minutes, according to a new study commissioned by groups campaigning for the project.

The report, by U.K.-based consultant David Cockle on behalf of Rail For The Valley, estimates an initial service running every 20 to 30 minutes on existing tracks could be launched with diesel-electric trains for $492 million.

It could be later upgraded to a no-emission electric system for a further $115 million.

Cockle called the proposal “very viable” with trains running 80 to 100 km/h between 18 stops along the 98-kilometre route.

The line would fulfill a long-held dream to reinstate a modern version of the B.C. Electric interurban rail service to Chilliwack that was shut down 60 years ago.

“When the Fraser Valley passenger service was suspended in 1950 there were less than 80,000 people living throughout the Valley,” Cockle said. “Today, one million people live in Valley communities, with 1.5 million projected by 2031.”

Rail For The Valley spokesman John Vissers said concerns about air quality, climate change and rising gas prices are fuelling demand for an alternative to driving long distances.

“We can now prove from an engineering and marketing perspective that you can run light rail at speeds comparable to driving your car from community to community across the Fraser Valley,” Vissers said. “We want our train back.”

Neither the province nor TransLink has so far shown much interest in using the historic corridor, both in the past citing concerns transit service could interfere with freight hauling and that other potential rapid transit routes in the Valley might serve more people.

Advocates like Vissers note the price tag is a big advantage compared to building all-new tracks A?ai??i??ai??? especially when stacked against pricier SkyTrain technology.

The study estimates the cost of a phase one startup at just $5 million per kilometre, compared to the almost $130 million per kilometre it will cost to build the $1.4-billion 11-kilometre Evergreen Line to Coquitlam.

They also argue the province’s retention of free passenger rights on the corridor ensures railways cannot simply deny the dream out of concern they might make less money due to slowed freight service.

“BC Hydro wisely retained the rights to passenger service and now we have an opportunity to capitalize on that,” Vissers said.

The proposed route includes 10 main stations and eight more basic tram stops.

The study also contemplates possible spurs connecting Chilliwack to Rosedale as well as Surrey to Richmond and potentially on to Vancouver.

Passing loops would allow freight and passenger trains to pass, but Cockle’s study assumes most freight trains would be required to run at night only.

“You don’t have to do any major track reconstruction,” Rail For the Valley researcher Malcolm Johnston said.

He said there’s potential to use tram-trains that could operate on both the existing rail corridor through the valley plus possible new tram routes within local cities.

That would open up the potential for the same rail cars to turn off and head along King George Boulevard in Surrey someday, or up 200 Street from Langley to Maple Ridge.

“It’s do-able,” Johnston said. “It just takes political will.”

Advocates will plead their case with local cities, TransLink and provincial government officials in the weeks ahead.

Meanwhile, the provincial government continues to keep the lid on the results of its own long-promised strategic review of Fraser Valley transit expansion options, including the existing rail corridor.

A transportation ministry spokesman said the findings could be released this fall.

TransLink previously estimated it would cost at $360 to $700 million to create a passenger rail service as far as Langley on the interurban corridor, although the City of Surrey estimated a shorter route as far as Cloverdale could be launched for as little as $110 million.

Several area mayors are lobbying for light rail rather than SkyTrain technology for any rapid transit extension through Surrey to ensure a broader reach of the service.

A light rail running on tram tracks in Nordhausen, Germany

Proposed stations:

1. Scott Road. (Sky Train connection)

2. Delta – Nordel Way

3. Newton – King George.

4. South Surrey – 152nd Street.

5. Cloverdale – 180th Street.

6. Langley – #10 Road / Kwantlen Polytechnic University (Langley Campus).

7. Abbotsford – McCallum Road.

8. Yarrow / Cultus Lake.

9. Sardis – Knight Road.

10. Chilliwack Station, Yale Road W and Young Road

Additional tram stops:

1. Langley A?ai??i??ai??? 200th Street.

2. Trinity Western University A?ai??i??ai??? Glover Road / Fort Langley

3. Gloucester Estates / Aldergrove.

4. Abbotsford, Essendene Avenue.

5. Abbotsford – Marshall Road / University of the Fraser Valley (Abbotsford Campus)

6. McConnell Road / Abbotsford International Airport.

7. Huntingdon / Sumas U.S.A.

8. Chilliwack – Airport Rd / University of the Fraser Valley (Chilliwack Campus)

Chilliwack to Surrey Interurban Final Report

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