Mayor Kennedy Stewart Enters The Silly Season With Gusto!

Back of an evelope

Back of an envelope Dept.

Civic election time in the Lower mainland is often called the “silly season”, by pundits because of the “silly” promises made by politicians.

Present Mayor Kennedy Stewart has promised to build a SkyTrain loop in central Vancouver,


What will be the cost of this SkyTrain subway loop Mr. Mayor?

Brief recap:

Millennium Line extension to Arbutus – Cost: Over $3 billion (without cars).

Expo Line Extension to Langley, Project 1 – Guideway cost: $4 billion. (cars not included)

Expo Line Extension to Langley, Project 2 – Operations & Maintenance Centre #5 cost: $500 mil. to $1 bil.

Expo and Millennium Line Mid life Rehab: Over $3 billion ($1.47 billion re-signalling contract now let)

All of the above must be completed before trains can operate.

So let us look at proposed SkyTrain extensions.

Arbutus to UBC subway – Now estimated at $6 billion (not including cars)

North Shore rapid Transit – Now estimated to cost in excess of $5 billion.

Kennedy Stewart’s 19 km SkyTrain loop – cost unkown.

Zwei’s estimate, based on the current per km cost of the Broadway subway at $526 billion/km – $10 billion!

I would think regional mayors would have something to say about this, but this is the silly season and politicians will tell all sorts of porkies to win elections. This one, by Kennedy Stewart is in the realm of sparkle ponies and pixie dust.

As Zwei has said over and over, “SkyTrain planning is for strictly politcal reasons and nothing more”.

Screenshot 2022-09-26 at 12-32-50 Vancouver loop SkyTrain extension proposed by Kennedy Stewart CityNews Vancouver


Incumbent Vancouver mayor announces SkyTrain loop expansion

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart has announced plans to expand the SkyTrain within the city, and connect major centres in a “loop” if he and his party are re-elected in October’s civic election.

In a release Monday from Stewart’s Forward Together party, the plan brings together the already in service Expo Line, the under-construction Broadway Subway, the city-approved extension to the University of British Columbia, with a new line in South Vancouver to create a loop across the city.

The new line would run along 41st and 49th Avenue, connecting UBC to Metrotown in Burnaby, and serve major attractions such as Langara College and Oakridge Centre.

“Completing the Vancouver Loop will help us meet our livability and climate emergency goals,” the incumbent mayor said. “I fought hard at TransLink Mayors’ Council to extend the Broadway Subway to UBC and secured millions of dollars from partners to fund it. If re-elected, I will fight just as hard to build the Vancouver Loop extension and expand rapid transit in South Vancouver.”

Forward Together says the new loop would link 18 neighbourhoods across the region, some of which do not have close SkyTrain access currently.

“We are in a climate emergency, which is why expanding rapid transit is so important. It will get people out of cars, alleviate congestion, lower emissions, improve our health, save time and money, and accelerate our push to become a 15-minute city,” Forward Together council candidate Tesicca Truong said. “Investing in rapid transit, especially in South Vancouver, will improve residents’ access to services, education and employment. I’m proud to be part of the team that will deliver this vision.”

The Broadway Subway between VCC-Clark and Arbutus is scheduled to open in 2025. The extension to UBC has been approved with stations confirmed and planning underway, however, full funding has not yet been secured for the extension.

Cement and Carbon – The Pollution Vancouver’s Greens Politely Ignore

Vancouver council prides itself on being Green. Vancouver Council, especially the Green members and the pretend Green mayor want a subway. Their problem is, a subway consumes a lot of cement, which in turn creates a lot of pollution in the form of CO2 emissions.

Here we have a conundrum, in order to continue the masquerade of being Green by building a subway, you will produce a lot more pollution than if a subway was not built.


Cement Produces More Pollution Than All the Trucks in the World

There are greener ways to make it⁠, but customers are slow to embrace the change.


The most astonishing thing about cement is how much air pollution it produces.

Manufacturing the stone-like building material is responsible for 7% of global carbon dioxide emissions, more than what comes from all the trucks in the world. And with that in mind, it’s surprising that leading cement makers from LafargeHolcim Ltd. in Switzerland to Votorantim Cimentos SA in Brazil are finding customers slow to embrace a greener alternative.

Their story highlights the difficulties of taking greenhouse gases out of buildings, roads and bridges. After wresting deep cuts from the energy industry, policymakers looking to extend the fight against global warming are increasingly focusing on construction materials and practices as a place to make further reductions. The companies are working on solutions, but buyers are reluctant to pay more.

“There is so far too little demand for sustainable materials,” said Jens Diebold, head of sustainability at LafargeHolcim. “I would love to see more demand from customers for it. There is limited sensitivity for carbon emissions in the construction of a building.”

Significant Share

The cement industry’s CO2 emissions were more than all the trucks on the road in 2017

While architects and developers concentrate on the energy used by their buildings, it’s actually the materials supporting the structure that embody the biggest share of its lifetime carbon footprint. Cement’s contribution to emissions is especially immense because of the chemical process required to make it.

About two-thirds of the polluting gases that come from cement production stem from burning limestone. Kilns are heated to more than 1,400 degrees Celsius (2,600 Fahrenheit), about four times hotter than a home oven set to the self-clean cycle. Inside the kiln, carbon trapped in the limestone combines with oxygen and is released as CO2, the most abundant greenhouse gas.

A ton of cement yields at least half a ton of CO2, according to the European Cement Association. That’s more than the average car would produce on a drive from New York to Miami. And a single mixer truck can carry about 13 tons. Hundreds or even thousands of tons go into ordinary office buildings.

For the rest of the story, please click here



Mississauga and Brampton – The Hurontario LRT

It is an interesting comparison that in Vancouver, 5.7 km of SkyTrain light-metro subway will cost over $3 billion and 16km of new SkyTrain light metro in Surrey and Langley will cost around $5 billion (both projects will actually cost over $11 billion for 21.7 km of new line, including the much needed rehab), while in Ontario 18 km of the Hurontario LRT will cost only $1.4 billion.

In Metro Vancouver, 21.7 km light-metro expansion will cost close to $507 million/km, while in Ontario 18 km of LRT will cost around $78 million/km.

Put another way, one could build 6.5 times more per km building with LRT than with light metro. Instead of 21.7 km of SkyTrain, one would get 141 km or more of new line, for $11 billion, building with LRT!


 First tracks to be laid on major section of $1.4-billion Mississauga-Brampton transit line


Published August 25, 2022

First tracks laid as major Mississauga-Brampton transit project moves forward

Starting this Sunday (Aug. 28), drivers on Hurontario St. in Mississauga and Brampton will be faced with a series of rolling partial intersection closures as the first tracks on the main section of a $1.4-billion light rail transit (LRT) route will be laid.

The tracks “will be laid along the centre of Hurontario St., where construction will occur at every other intersection to allow for detours,” officials with Metrolinx, the provincial agency overseeing the huge Hazel McCallion LRT project, said in a news release today (Aug. 25). “This is a key sign of progress for the 18-kilometre rapid transit line.”

Project leaders note that while the first tracks were actually laid earlier this year at the route’s Operations, Maintenance and Storage Facility on the Mississauga-Brampton border, “…this is the first track installation along the LRT guideway where the light rail vehicles will run on Hurontario St.”

The ongoing partial intersection closures will restrict drivers from turning left in both directions while driving along Hurontario St.

“With this approach, the track installations can occur quickly and more efficiently with less impact overall,” Metrolinx officials say. “Once the track is laid, the intersections will reopen with no more than two consecutive intersections being closed at the same time.”

(Image: Metrolinx)

Work begins on Aug. 28 at the intersection of Hurontario St. and Milverton Dr./Watline Ave. (just north of Matheson Blvd.) and will continue until Sept. 16.

Additionally, project leaders say, the Hurontario St. and Sandstone Dr./Brunel Rd. intersection (just south of Britannia Rd.) will be partially closed from Sept. 6 until Sept. 28.

Metrolinx says work at both intersections is expected to be completed by October.

Track installation will also be ongoing on Hurontario St. at Aldridge St./Traders Blvd. and Matheson Blvd.

Recent work on the 18-kilometre Hazel McCallion LRT, which is to be completed by fall 2024, has also focused on a section of 100-year-old Mary Fix Creek near Port Credit GO station in south Mississauga.

Port Credit GO is the starting point of the LRT route, which when up and running will make 19 stops between south Mississauga and Brampton. It will connect to major transit systems including GO Transit (Milton and Lakeshore West Lines), the Mississauga Transitway, Brampton Transit, ZUM and MiWay.

Meanwhile, City of Mississauga officials are still aggressively pushing for reinstatement of initial plans to create an “LRT loop” that would more directly and conveniently serve condo residents and office workers in the city’s downtown core around Square One.

Hurontario LRT map

Obituary – Adam Fitch



Rail for the Valley is not in the habit of printing obituaries, but Adam Fitch was a good friend to Rail for the Valley and this blog.

Zwei received the following email from the daughter of Adam Fitch:

This is Emily Fitch, Adam’s elder daughter. If you can, please join me on Monday, September 19th to attend Adam’s funeral and burial. Adam died yesterday evening at St. Paul’s hospital, surrounded by family. He had been battling a blood infection for the previous three weeks.
Funeral Details:
Monday September 19, 2:30-4:00pm
Schara Tzedeck Cemetery
2345 Marine Drive, New Westminster. 5 mins’ walk west of 22nd Street skytrain station.
I only met Adam Fitch twice, but we constantly sent emails to each other for about a decade about transit and transit planning. He was one of the professional planners who advised me on the subject of transit and transportation in the modern urban setting. He was a fountain of information and I had my knuckles rapped a few times about mistakes made in regional planning and transportation.
Adam was also one of the few planners in BC who actually understood transit mode, bus, tram (LRT) light metro and subway, a rarity in BC.
He will be deeply missed.
Again, I offer my condolences from Rail for the Valley to his family.


What Is The Real Cost For The Expo & Millennium Line Extensions?


It is the civic election season, or more fondly called the “silly season” and all sorts of claims and promises are made.

Recently on a local radio talk show a politcal wannabe claimed that; “SkyTrain operates almost free because it does not have any drivers and is cheaper than LRT” and the host agreed with the person!

This sort of nonsense has been going on for decades, where people who should know better, make outlandish claims for the SkyTrain light metro system, without even a notion of understanding of the regional light rail system.

So, let us look at the costs of the current Expo and Millennium Line projects.

The Millennium Line extension to Arbutus

The Millennium Line extension to Arbutus can trace its ancestry back to the old Broadway-Lougheed rapid transit project where originally planned light rail would stop at the Arbutus Corridor where it would hook up to proposed light rail operating on the former Arbutus Corridor interurban  route.

The NDP shelved this project, when the flip flopped from LRT to the proprietary  Advanced Rapid Transit (ART), which, at the time, was the latest rebranding of the former proprietary Advanced Light Rail Transit (ALRT) system used on the Expo Line. The NDP further debased regional transit planning when they promised to pay two thirds of SkyTrain only construction West of Commercial Drive.

! SkyTrain

The flip-flop from Light Rail to Light Metro and with the province paying two thirds of the cost, gave Vancouver politicians the idea that having subways, makes a city world class, without even a hint of knowledge of the true cost of subways and their lack of ability in attracting ridership. But, they make good background for politcal photo-ops.

In April 2018, it was announced that the cost of the 5.7 km Broadway subway or Millennium Line extension to Arbutus will cost $2.83 billion.

Accounting for inflation and that cement costs have risen two to three times the rate of inflation, the cost of the subway will be more.

How much more?

Accounting just for inflation, the project now costs $3.19 billion and rising.

All the more embarrassing is that the subway will cater to peak traffic flows less than 4,000 pphpd, with the Broadway 99-B Line bus currently having a maximum capacity of 2,000 pphpd!

Expect the bad news that the cost of the subway will exceed its original estimates after the next civic elections.

The Expo Line Extension To Langley

This project has even more dubious history than the Broadway subway.

With the cost of SkyTrain light-metro ever increasing, TransLink set in motion of a plan to build LRT to connect central Surrey and Langley to the light-metro network.


The planning was fraught with issues, as TransLink designed the proposed LRT as a road rebuilding project with rails which drove up costs. Another problem, TransLink designed the proposed Surrey LRT as a “poor man’s” light metro and failed to understand that LRT was not light metro.

Evidently the bureaucrats at TransLink do not understand the differences between LRT and light-metro.

In the 2018 Civic Elections, former City of Surrey Mayor Dough McCallum ran on a ticket which included a switch from LRT to light-metro because he was an expert about transit, being around when the Millennium line was built, and that he could build the 16 km Expo line extension to Langley for $1.63 billion.

The public bought into this nonsense and McCallum was duly elected and the switch from LRT to Movia Automatic Light Metro was made.

Fast forward to 2022 and the cost to extend the SkyTrain light-metro system to Langley has become so expensive that the the project has been split into two contracts in an effort by the provincial government to hide the costs.

Contract 1: The guideway, which is now estimated to cost over $4 billion, of which 40% will be paid for by the federal government.

Contract 2: The operations and maintenance centre #5, which is now estimated to cost $500 million to $1 billion and must be completed before the line opens.

Thus the true cost of the 16 km Expo Line extension to Langley is $4.5 billion to $5 billion+!

The Partly Funded Mid Life Rehab

What is not included with the cost of the SkyTrain light metro extensions, is the estimated $3 billion mid life rehab of the Expo and Millennium Lines. As mentioned several times before, the Expo and Millennium Lines need a complete re-signalling; a renewed and enhanced electrical supply; and the replacement of switches (points), and a sundry of lesser items to be renewed or replaced before the extensions are opened.

From Toronto's MetroLinx - the 50 year costs of rapid transit.

From Toronto’s MetroLinx – the 50 year costs of rapid transit.

Already TransLink has inked a contract with Thales to re-signal the Expo and Millennium Lines and one can well guess that what was once estimated to be $3 billion will be considerably higher.

Die Rechnung – The Bill!

What is the cost of extending SkyTrain Light Metro system 21.7 km?

5.7 km Broadway subway – $3 billion+

16 km Expo Line extension to Langley – $4.5 billion to $5 billion+

Mid life rehab – $3 billion+ ($1.47 billion already spent to install a new signalling system)

Thus the total cost for extending the Expo and Millennium lines a mere 21.7 km is $10.5 billion to $11 billion+!

The question remains, is $10.5 billion to $11 billion+ good value for money for 21.7 km of rapid transit?

Slip Coaches – A Little Bit Of Railway History

Disclaimer: I do not advocate for “slip coaches” on either the E&N or the RftV/Leewood plan, rather  just a historical look back at passenger railway practice.

In 2022, if one mentions a “slip coach” I would think Transport Canada would be in a nervous collapse.

The last “slip coach” operated on British rail in 1960, but the practice of dividing passenger trains at stations and joining other rail services to separate destinations, is common today on many European railways.

Slip Coaches c.1900 - 1910

According to British railway lore, the “slip coach” was born when a rail official was riding in a train car that came an unexpected stop. The rest of the express train kept going while his carriage glided to a gentle halt in front of a midway station. As the story goes, the coupling chain broke in transit, so the guard on the slipped car used his handbrake to slow and guide it carefully to a halt alongside the platform. Fascinated by the accident, the official wondered: could we do this on purpose? Thus, in the mid-1800s, train operators began detaching passenger cars in motion, sending them into stations without motive power of their own.

The more likely actual origin story is a little less sudden and dramatic, but nonetheless fraught. Before slip cars, there were reckless rail car detachments — a locomotive might simply slow down a bit to provide some give while an engineer decoupled rear cars on the fly.

Once a slip coupling was developed, there was theoretically no limit to the number of cars that could be slipped or how many times it could be done along a route. An express train between London and Glasgow could, for instance, drop a few cars off in one smaller town or city along the way, then a few others in another (as long as there was a guard manning a set of brakes in the lead car slipped at each stop). The slipped cars could then open up to let riders off, or be attached to another train, routing them along without people needing to transfer.

For the rest of the story please click here

Take the H Train


It now seems hydrogen powered trains are now mainstream and set to become the worlds least polluting transit mode.

It is time Canada and BC politicians get on board the H-Train, but I am afraid in Canada, politicians and bureaucrats have left at the station and gone to the airport to travel on the taxpayer’s dime, first class, to their destinations.


Germany inaugurates world’s first hydrogen-powered train fleet

A fleet of 14 trains powered entirely by hydrogen is launched in Germany’s Lower Saxony state.

a hydrogen-powered train Coradia iLint in Bremervoerde, northern Germany

A fleet of 14 trains were provided by French industrial giant Alstom [Alstom handout/EPA]

Germany has inaugurated a railway line powered entirely by hydrogen, a “world premiere” and a significant step forward for green train transport despite nagging supply challenges.

A fleet of 14 trains provided by French industrial giant Alstom to the German state of Lower Saxony has replaced diesel locomotives on the 100km (60 miles) of track connecting the cities of Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervoerde and Buxtehude near Hamburg.

“We are very proud to put this technology into operation together with our strong partners as a world premiere,” Alstom CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge said in a statement on Wednesday.

Hydrogen trains have become a promising way to decarbonise the rail sector and replace climate-warming diesel, which still powers 20 percent of journeys in Germany.

Billed as a “zero emission” mode of transport, the trains mix hydrogen on board with oxygen present in the ambient air, thanks to a fuel cell installed in the roof. This produces the electricity needed to pull the train.

Regional rail operator LNVG said the fleet, which cost 93 million euros ($93m), would prevent 4,400 tonnes of CO2 being released into the atmosphere each year.

Run for its money

Designed in the southern French town of Tarbes and assembled in Salzgitter in central Germany, Alstom’s trains – called Coradia iLint – are trailblazers in the sector.

The project created jobs for up to 80 employees in the two countries, according to Alstom.

Commercial trials have been carried out since 2018 on the line with two hydrogen trains but now the entire fleet is adopting the groundbreaking technology.

The French group has inked four contracts for several dozen trains between Germany, France and Italy, with no sign of demand waning.In Germany alone “between 2,500 and 3,000 diesel trains could be replaced by hydrogen models”, Stefan Schrank, project manager at Alstom, told the AFP news agency.“By 2035, around 15 to 20 percent of the regional European market could run on hydrogen,” according to Alexandre Charpentier, a rail expert at consultancy Roland Berger.

Hydrogen trains are particularly attractive on short regional lines where the cost of a transition to electric outstrips the profitability of the route.

Currently, about one out of two regional trains in Europe runs on diesel. But Alstom’s competitors are ready to give it a run for its money.

German behemoth Siemens unveiled a prototype hydrogen train with national rail company Deutsche Bahn in May, with a view to a rollout in 2024.

But, despite the attractive prospects, “there are real barriers” to a big expansion with hydrogen, Charpentier said.

For starters, trains are not the only means of transport hungry for the fuel.

The entire sector, whether it be road vehicles or aircraft, not to mention heavy industry such as steel and chemicals, is eyeing hydrogen to slash CO2 emissions.

Ambitious plan

Although Germany announced in 2020 an ambitious seven-billion-euro ($7bn) plan to become a leader in hydrogen technologies within a decade, the infrastructure is still lacking in Europe’s top economy.

It is a problem seen across the continent, where colossal investment would be needed for a real shift to hydrogen.

“For this reason, we do not foresee a 100-percent replacement of diesel trains with hydrogen,” Charpentier said.

Furthermore, hydrogen is not necessarily carbon-free: only “green hydrogen”, produced using renewable energy, is considered sustainable by experts.

Other, more common manufacturing methods exist, but they emit greenhouse gases because they are made from fossil fuels.

The Lower Saxony line will in the beginning have to use a hydrogen by-product of certain industries such as the chemical sector.

The French research institute IFP specialising in energy issues says that hydrogen is currently “95 percent derived from the transformation of fossil fuels, almost half of which come from natural gas”.

Europe’s enduring reliance on gas from Russia amid massive tensions over the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine poses major challenges for the development of hydrogen in rail transport.

“Political leaders will have to decide which sector to prioritise when determining what the production of hydrogen will or won’t go to,” Charpentier said.

Germany will also have to import massively to meet its needs.

Partnerships have recently been signed with India and Morocco, and Chancellor Olaf Scholz sealed a green hydrogen deal with Canada on a visit this week, laying a path for a transatlantic supply chain.

Source: AFP

Driverless Trains

Old Zwei has told you so, operating driverless trains is very expensive.

In December 2019, it was reveled that the SkyTrain Light metro system (Expo and millennium Lines, had over 900 employees.

That is over 900 workers for just two rail lines.

The Canada line, being a P-3, has it own employees and the number of people working on the SNC Lavalin.Caisse du’Depot lead concession operating the light metro line is deemed proprietary and not released.

In 201 it was revealed that the driverless Canada Line had 180 control room workers, maintenance people and attendants and are represented by B.C. Government and Service Employees Union who are currently negotiating a new contract.

Thus the SkyTrain light metro line has over 1,080 unionized workers and this does not include management.

What what is even more expensive is extending driverless trains into areas of smaller populations simply because the huge maintenance costs to keep a driverless train operating far outweighs any transportation benefits. This is the problem facing the Expo line extension to Langley as the $40 million annually in extra operation and maintenance costs (TransLink’s estimates) and the $500 million to $1 billion Operations and maintenance centre, far outweigh any benefits.

What will happen is simple, the now $5 billion Expo line extension will cannibalize the rest of the transit system and with inflation and a general reluctance  of the taxpayer to pay more taxes will mean the money must come from the rest of the transit system in higher fares and user fees.

And to think, that because of the actions of the current idiot Mayor of Surrey, who said he could build the Expo line extension to Langley for $1.63 billion, supported by the other idiot mayors on the Mayor’s Council for Transit, yet for a little more than half the cost of the current 16 km, $5 billion light metro extension to langley, a larger light rail network, extending to Langley would be opening in 2024!


Driverless train, operating at-grade also need to be protected by 3 metre, razor wire topped fencing.

Driverless train, operating at-grade also need to be protected by 3 metre, razor wire topped fencing.

Costs of Sydney’s driverless train conversion outweigh the benefits

The NSW government’s industrial dispute with rail unions over the new intercity trains is tipped to add hundreds of millions of dollars to costs on Australia’s largest infrastructure project that has already blown out by billions.

But even without overruns pushing the cost of the driverless-train project to more than A$55 billion, the economics of the “Sydney Metro” project are questionable – in particular the decision to cannibalise parts of the existing Sydney train network to create one of the four planned automated routes.

The new driverless trains – as used in megacities throughout the world – have fewer seats, increased standing room, and more doors than Sydney’s main fleet of double-decker trains, making them better suited to peak-time congestion.

The Metro project promises to deliver up to 15 services an hour (every four minutes) to cope with Sydney’s growing population.


Driverless trains will eventually operate on three lines from the CBD (to the northwest, west and southwest) and one in far-western Sydney, connecting to the city’s second airport site at Badgery’s Creek.

By far the biggest cost for the project are new tunnels under the harbour and CBD. Our focus, however, is on the merits of cannibalising existing rail infrastructure – namely the rail line to Bankstown, about 16km southwest of the Sydney CBD – for the southwest Metro line.

This part of the project involves converting 11 stations between Bankstown and the inner-eastern suburb of Sydenham. (A new tunnel has been built from Sydenham into the CBD, where the line links to the Northwest Metro line).

Sydney Railway System. The authors, CC BY

Our analysis shows the costs, disruptions and lost opportunities associated with converting this line for the Metro network outweigh the benefits and potential savings, largely achieved from replacing drivers.

Straightening the line

Automated trains are now commonplace in cities throughout Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Their high-frequency services and platform screen doors enable the transport of large numbers of commuters with minimal staff supervision. They have proven safe and effective

The issue is whether they are worth cannibalizing existing services for. There are two main calculations to consider: the initial cost; and the ongoing costs.

In terms of initial costs, the Bankstown line is not well-suited for automatic trains. Automatic trains, which stop precisely at gateways on enclosed platforms, require straight platforms. The Bankstown line, and five of its station platforms, are sharply curved.

Straightening up: the curved platform of Campsie train station, on the Bankstown line in south-western Sydney, is being converted for automatic trains as part the NSW government's Sydney Metro rail project.

Straightening up: the curved platform of Campsie train station, on the Bankstown line in south-western Sydney, is being converted for automatic trains as part the NSW government’s Sydney Metro rail project. Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

Calculating the full cost of making these right for driverless trains is complicated, because maintenance and renovations to improve accessibility and amenity would have happened in any circumstance.

Based on the NSW government’s public announcements, we estimate converting the line and stations to driverless trains will cost about A$1 billion. We conservatively estimate $500 million of that is purely to meet the operating requirements of driverless trains. This excludes the cost of new train storage, control systems and power upgrades specifically incurred by the choice of automated trains.

Savings on drivers

On the other side of the ledger are potential savings – notably on driver costs. We estimate operating the Bankstown railway as an automated metro will save about $15 million a year on driver costs.

This is based on the driver cost of providing train services at least every 10 minutes all week, and every five minutes during peak times. The NSW government has indicated Metro services will operate up to every four minutes, but the timetable for the Bankstown line metro is not yet public.

We estimated driver costs based on the May 2022 timetable for the Bankstown line – about 1,500 services a week (1,210 during the week, and 324 at weekends). To approximate matching the higher frequency promised by the Metro trains, we calculated driver costs for 1,900 services a week.

This would require employing about 100 drivers, allowing for normal working hours, holidays and other leave. Based on the cost of employing a driver, including administrative overheads, being about $150,000 a year, the savings from replacing drivers on this line is about $15 million a year.

Assuming a 5% rate of return on the $500 million cost to automate the line, this saving is offset by the $25 million a year in opportunity costs on the $500 million line conversion.

Time for a rethink

Augmenting established rail networks with new automated rail services is one thing. Cannibalising existing infrastructure to build those new lines is quite another.

Fortunately for taxpayers, the NSW government is not repeating this conversion approach with the other Metro lines.

By our calculation, Sydney would be better served by following the approach adopted in Melbourne and Brisbane. Both cities are investing heavily in new rail lines, but they are acquiring new trains compatible with their existing railway systems.

This would make much more sense for the Metro line yet to be built between the CBD and the western-Sydney centre of Parramatta.

Greater compatibility will enable services to be readily extended onto existing tracks west of Parramatta while avoiding the cost and complexities of the Bankstown line conversion.

When Politicans Play Trains

It is the sad, same old story, when politicians play trains with multi billion dollar transit projects, things go south all too quickly.

In 2018, then mayoralty candidate, Doug McCallum claimed he was an expert and he could build the Expo Line extension for $1.63 billion. Fast forward to 2022 and the cost for the Expo line extension to Langley is now pushing $5 billion!

The now elected, but somewhat disgraced mayor (due to a pending criminal charge) is now pushing for a 60,00 seat sports area somewhere on the rapid transit line to increase usage.

Fool the public once, why not fool the public again.

The Mayor should read RftV’s previous blog post about the current land rush happening all along the the proposed R/T line. How much will the land cost, if any is available?

It is necessary for a new transit line to have a commissioning period, over several months to ensure a future smooth operation.

Vancouver’s new ALRT system had so many problems it took  years to fix and the rail corrugation problems still plague the system.

In Ottawa, politcal interference played a large part in providing a transit system that did not have all the bugs ironed out and now they are going to pay the price for their arrogance.

It is oh so easy to blame light rail; it is so easy to blame the other guy. What is not so easy is to blame one’s self.

As with most transit projects, politicians assume they are the experts and that they know best.

Ha, ha, ha!

In Vancouver, it is the same but the mainstream media thinks it impolite to blame SkyTrain, so they blame LRT elsewhere, go figure.

ottawa LRT

Everyone else to blame for LRT failures, everyone involved tells inquiry

Ted Raymond, CTV News Ottawa

Ted Raymond CTV News Ottawa Digital Multi-Skilled Journalist

Published Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The written closing submissions in the province’s public inquiry into Stage 1 of Ottawa’s light rail transit project are a summary of the finger-pointing seen and heard during the live testimony in June and July.

The inquiry posted the final closing submissions from nine involved parties, including the city of Ottawa, the Rideau Transit Group—which built and now maintains the Confederation Line—train manufacturer Alstom, and others.

A common theme that emerged is that the interested parties were not at fault, but were instead the victims of the other parties involved.

For example, Alstom said in its closing submission that micromanagement from the city of Ottawa, which Alstom said was inexperienced in major infrastructure development, was to the detriment of the project.

“To make up for this inexperience, the City retained an army of expert consultants to guide them through every aspect of the Project, from design and construction to operations and maintenance. Yet, the City often failed to heed its experts’ advice,” the submission said. “Instead, under extreme public scrutiny in Ottawa, the City was pressured to make short sighted decisions, to ‘act tough’ with its contractor partner, and, ultimately, to put the System into service before it was ready.”

The city, meanwhile, blamed the consortium it contracted to build the LRT system.

Noting several issues that plagued the line since its launch, including door failures, wheel cracks and two significant derailments, the city said all of the blame lies at the feet of the builder.

“RTG’s failures to perform its design, construction and maintenance obligations cannot be blamed on the City. In particular, these failures do not arise from the City’s procurement approach, the structure and content of the Request for Proposals, the adequacy of the Project Agreement, the City’s oversight of the Project or any of the other criticisms of the City’s conduct raised by Commission counsel during this Inquiry,” the city’s closing submission said. “None of those matters caused or contributed to the issues that led to the breakdowns and derailments.”

But RTG said the problems that arose when the system launched were “reasonably common problems” for a complex infrastructure project and blamed the impact to transit riders on city officials.

“The problems with the project had an outsized impact on Ottawa’s residents because their municipal government set unrealistic expectations,” RTG said. “Elected officials promised the public a turnkey system and campaigned on delivering it with no delays. When their own advisors warned them that no complex transit system, newly-built and operated, would launch problem-free, the political die was already cast.”

Alstom said its staffing and planning levels were appropriate and it overcame the challenges of building a new supply chain, but also said it was “set up to fail” from the very beginning.

“Unfortunately, Alstom’s maintenance team was set up to fail by circumstances out of its control, including a lack of transparency and information sharing from Ottawa Light Rail Transit Constructors (OLRTC) leading up to and during Revenue Service Availability (RSA), and RTG’s decision to shift the burden of a highly degraded and immature system from OLRTC to RTM and Alstom,” the train builder said.

“The City and RTG’s decision to start Revenue Service before the System was 100% ready presented enormous challenges for RTM and Alstom, as anticipated by RTG.”

The city’s closing submission said it felt at times that the “public sector was on trial” but staff defended their actions during the procurement, launch, and running of the system.

“[T]he City believes that a fair-minded and impartial observer can only come to one conclusion – the City’s conduct, and the conduct of its representatives, is not responsible for the previous and continuing issues facing the LRT,” the city said.

RTG stressed that it was ready to launch, but had issues with its subcontractor, Alstom.

“The Commission heard evidence from many parties that the Confederation Line was safe and ready for service at RSA. RTM was ready to perform its maintenance obligations at RSA,” the consortium wrote.

“Despite RTM’s readiness, it needed to rely on its subcontractor, Alstom. Though the RTG Parties’ constantly pushed Alstom maintenance (and it represented that it was ready for RSA), the reality was that Alstom maintenance was not prepared for RSA.”

Through all of this, the union representing transit operators said the problems with the LRT affected the entire transit system, had a negative impact on customers and, ultimately, on OC Transpo rank and file.

“Residents of Ottawa were promised that the years of disruptions to their roadways and transit networks during the construction of Phase 1 would be worth it because the light rail system would deliver this “safe and reliable” transit service from its inception,” The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 wrote in its closing submission.

“Regrettably, what the evidence has shown over 18 days of testimony and countless exhibits is that not only has the Confederation Line fallen far short of being a reliable form of public transportation, but it has also shown that virtually everyone connected with the project knew this was going to be the reality before the system’s public launch in September of 2019.”

The ATU blamed the public-private partnership model (P3) as inherently flawed.

“The adoption of a public/private partnership (P3) model for the construction and operation of the Confederation Line rather than having OC Transpo operate the system directly (i) unduly fragmented the operations and maintenance of the transit system; (ii) prevented OC Transpo managers from responding to service challenges; and (iii) generally led to a lack of public accountability for the system’s failures.”

The inquiry was called following two derailments in six weeks last summer, the second of which kept the Confederation Line closed for 54 days.

The commissioner leading the public inquiry into Ottawa’s light rail transit system has received a three-month extension to finish the final report, pushing the deadline beyond the Oct. 24 municipal election. Justice William Hourigan will have until Nov. 30, 2022 to submit his final report.

The inquiry originally had a deadline of Aug. 31, which would have enabled a final report to be tabled before the election, but it always included the possibility of an extension.

Mayor Jim Watson is not running for re-election in 2022 and neither are several city councillors.

Eighteen days of public hearings were held at the University of Ottawa from June 13 to July 7, with 41 witnesses testifying. The commission also conducted formal interviews with dozens of witnesses, hosted an expert panel on public-private partnerships, and received more than 550,000 documents related to the LRT system.

The Expo Line Land Rush

Like the Millennium Line extension to Arbutus more commonly known as the Broadway subway, the main reason for extending the SkyTrain light metro system is to give politcal friends and insiders, mainly land speculators and land developers the ability of make large profits by assembling land, having council up-zone the land to allow for higher densities, by building towers and high rise condos.
This game has been played in metro Vancouver ever since the NDP did their infamous switcheroo from light rail to light metro for what is know known as the Millennium Line, in the 1990’s
Building rapid transit has been about land development, rather than moving people and sadly, the taxpayer will soon learn that extending the proprietary light metro to Langley will be extremely costly, with annual added operating costs of more than $35 million annually.
Total cost of the project is now around the $5 billion mark, not including cars or the much needed $2 to $3 billion rehab of the aging Expo line. Let us also remember that this line is a mere 16 km long and according to TransLink’s own numbers, will carry less customers than the Broadway B-Line Bus did in 2019.
Like the land-rush in Vancouver with the Broadway subway or Millennium line extension to Arbutus Street, extending the Expo Line to Langley is all about moving money and not passengers.
Brown areas are within a five-minute walk of one of the planned local SkyTrain stations. Areas in tan are within a 10-minute walk. (Langley City OCP)
Brown areas are within a five-minute walk of one of the planned local SkyTrain stations. Areas in tan are within a 10-minute walk. (Langley City OCP)

Most land on City SkyTrain route already bought by developers: realtor

Langley City land assemblages are ready to be redeveloped over the next few years

Much of the land in downtown Langley City, particularly along the main SkyTrain corridor, which runs down Fraser Highway and then Industrial Avenue to 203rd Street, can be redeveloped as part of the City’s most recent update to its Official Community Plan (OCP) adopted last year.

“That whole area is going to change significantly,” said Gordon Kleaman, a Re/Max realtor from North Vancouver who recently brokered a deal for a big planned housing project in downtown Langley City.

Kleaman was the realtor for the sale of three lots of low-rise, older apartments on Eastleigh Crescent, a few blocks from the planned SkyTrain terminus at Industrial Avenue and 203rd Street.

The three-lot, 1.38 acre land assembly reportedly sold for $18 million to a developer now planning a six-storey condo complex, along with 159 townhouse units.

Right now, the core areas alongside the SkyTrain line, and near its terminus, include a mix of uses, from low-rise residential, to big box shopping centres, restaurants, and small shops. There are also a significant number of car dealerships, auto shops, parts dealers, and light industrial buildings.

“Most of those are already purchased,” Kleaman said of the light industrial districts.

Developers are willing to pay a premium to buy within Langley City, he noted, because the City has a reputation for processing development applications faster than Surrey or Langley Township.

In the City, an application can take months, rather than years.

But that means a lot of plans won’t come to the City right away.

“They’ll time the market,” he said. Developers will wait until the market is right for their project, comfortable in the knowledge that they can get their project approved in a timely manner.

Kleaman said another land assembly on 196th Street, near the other main SkyTrain station in Langley, didn’t sell for as much as the Eastleigh Crescent site, because it was outside the City’s boundaries.

“That was one of the factors in pricing,” he said.

The City is planning for significant population growth and increasing density over the next three decades, and SkyTrain and other forms of public transit are key to its OCP.

As of 2019, there were 28,085 people in Langley City. By 2050, the City expects there to be 41,438.

The mix of types of housing will radically change.

While Langley City has long had plenty of low-rise apartment buildings, it also had many areas of single-family housing, especially near the Nicomekl River and on the west side of the City south of 56th Avenue.

But condos and townhouses are being rapidly built, and the arrival of SkyTrain and more mixed-use housing downtown will change that.

As of the creation of the OCP, there were 7,260 apartments, 1,945 townhouses or duplexes, and 3,760 single family homes in the City.

The “total capacity” for those three types is 24,713 apartments, 6,094 duplexes and townhouses, and 3,046 single family homes. Total capacity isn’t a goal, but a measure of how many homes the City could accommodate.

That growth is to be focused in the City’s central areas, with 91 per cent of new households and 99 per cent of new jobs expected to be in the City’s “regional city centre,” an area north of 53rd Avenue and the Nicomekl, and between 196th Street to the west and the Langley Bypass to the east.