BCLocalNews.com – COLUMN: We should get on track

COLUMN: We should get on track

By Frank Bucholtz – Surrey North Delta Leader

Published: September 23, 2010 2:00 PM

Updated: September 23, 2010 2:42 PM

A study looking at resurrecting rail passenger service along the former interurban line needs to receive careful attention from Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley mayors, and from the provincial government.

The study was commissioned by Rail for the Valley, a lobby group that specifically wants to see more light rail service within the Fraser Valley, specifically from Surrey and Delta to Chilliwack along the former B.C. Electric Railway line.

That line was initially built to transport passengers, express, mail and freight. It did so very well from 1910 to 1950. It is almost completely intact today, and is used as a freight railway.

The provincial government has an ace in the hole when it comes to making use of the line. The land it sits on is owned by B.C. Hydro, which took over the B.C. Electric Company in 1961. When Hydro sold its freight railway off in the late 1980s, the province reserved the right to run passenger trains along the tracks A?ai??i??ai??? a right it continues to hold today.

When passenger service ceased on the interurban, 60 years ago this month, the entire Fraser Valley had fewer than 80,000 people living in it. Modern roads and bus service meant that there was less demand for a passenger rail service. At that time, the service was run by a private company which received no subsidy to carry passengers at a loss. It had no choice but to end service.

Today, there are one million Fraser Valley residents, with the population estimated to grow to 1.5 million over the next 20 years.

Anyone who has spent time on Highway 1 anywhere within the Valley knows that it is becoming more and more congested each year. While improvements to the freeway from 216 Street into Vancouver to accommodate the new Port Mann Bridge are underway, the road is scheduled to remains two lanes in each direction from 216 Street east.

Consultant David Cockle has suggested that a diesel-powered train could make the run from Chilliwack to the Scott Road SkyTrain station in Surrey in 90 minutes, at speeds of between 80 and 100 km/h. It could run every 20 to 30 minutes, and make 18 stops A?ai??i??ai??? all for a capital cost of just under $500 million. For another $115 million, the service could be electrified and be completely emission-free.

Former transportation minister Kevin Falcon never seemed very interested in the revival of the interurban. He made the valid point that the line meanders through the Valley, and goes through a number of agricultural areas where there is little prospect of traffic.

But it also goes through most major town centres south of the Fraser A?ai??i??ai??? Chilliwack, Sardis, Abbotsford, Langley City, and several shopping areas in Surrey, including Cloverdale, Newton, Scott Road and just west of Whalley. It also is very close to seven post-secondary institutions A?ai??i??ai??? three Kwantlen Polytechnic University campuses, Simon Fraser University, Trinity Western University and two campuses of the University of the Fraser Valley.

ItA?ai??i??ai???s high time that TransLink started to do a better job serving the area south of the Fraser.

This study needs to be carefully compared to a study the province has commissioned, a strategic review of Fraser Valley transit expansion options, which may be released this fall.

via BCLocalNews.com – COLUMN: We should get on track.

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