Valley light rail all go, twin groups claim

Valley light rail all go, twin groups claim

By Brian Lewis, The Province September 21, 2010

Advocates for reintroducing light-rail transit to the Fraser Valley along the old Inter-Urban route were building up a fresh head of steam on two fronts Monday.

On the first front, Rail for the Valley, a non-profit advocacy group working to establish community rail on the old B.C. Electric tram route from Surrey to Chilliwack, released a comprehensive 84-page report it commissioned from a U.K.-based, rail-transit consulting company.

The company, Leewood Projects, has worked on Phase 1 of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, as well as London Underground projects.

“This report shows there’s a viable business case for community rail here,” says Rail for the Valley spokesman John Vissers. “We can say with certainty this is not a pie-in-the-sky project.”

In the first stage, the study calls for a light-rail system covering the full 98 kilometres from Scott Road in Surrey to Chilliwack, and utilizing two- or three-car articulated diesel/electric train units with a capacity of 120 to 240 passengers. It could be built for about $492 million and, initially, the units would run on diesel.

A second phase would involve overhead electrification of the route. That would add another $115 million and result in a total first-stage expenditure of $607 million.

As well, the study concludes that it’s feasible for such a light rail/interurban service to share the right of way with existing freight operations of CP Rail, the CNR and the Southern Railway of B.C.

Vissers says the “ace in the hole” here is the fact that the Inter Urban track, railbed and right of way are physically in place and owned by B.C. taxpayers, who through B.C. Hydro also have the right to run a passenger rail service on the line in conjunction with its commercial clients.

Meanwhile, on a second front, the South of Fraser Community Task Force was promoting its new 30-minute video Monday.

This is the group founded earlier this year by Township of Langley Mayor Rick Green. It also calls for Fraser Valley community rail service.

In fact, in addition to municipal government representatives from Delta, Surrey, the City of Langley, the township, the City of White Rock and Abbotsford, this group has advocacy group representation from Rail for the Valley, the Fraser Valley Heritage Rail Society, South Fraser On Trax and the Valley Transportation Advisory Committee.

Other task-force members include the valley’s three universities, which would be well-served by the Inter Urban line: Kwantlen Polytechnic, Trinity Western and the University of the Fraser Valley.

The video, Community Rail in the Valley, was produced by Shaw Cablesystems, which is now showing it regularly on its local outlet. It calls for an initial demonstration line that could run from Scott Road to Abbotsford.

“We’re already getting a very good response from the initial broadcasts,” says Green, who chairs the task force. “Putting light rail on the Inter Urban just makes so much sense, because it would run through all the valley’s population bases.”

Both the Rail for the Valley report and the Community Rail Task Force’s video will be shown far and wide this fall throughout the region, and to senior governments.

blewis@theprovince.com

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