Premier Horgan’s FastFerry Redux!


Before reading on, please remember this figure of $1.3 billion, as it represents an updated (2021) cost for Rail for the Valley’s Leewood Study, offering a three trains per hour per direction from Vancouver to Chilliwack.

Doing the Rail for the Valley blog for the past 12 years has been an interesting experience and I have learned a tremendous amount. To keep the RftV blog credible, I had to reach out to real professionals to get an accurate account of our transit situation in Metro Vancouver. Their comments are gob-smacking!

The following is from RftV’s old friend, a transportation engineer from Ottawa, who uses the avatar Haveacow.

Mr. Cow wishes to remain anonymous due to the small and arcane world of transit planning in Canada, which for telling the truth, could mean being blackballed or worse.

This from another engineer commenting why Mr. Cow uses an avatar.

…… can understand the reason for the pseudonym I know they once found out what they thought was mine (it was) and I paid dearly for it.

The SkyTrain lobby just love to get even with those who deal in fact.

The main takeaways are from this fact filled essay on the future of the Expo Line reaching Langley:

  1. The Expo line extension is no longer a TransLink project, it is a provincial project being driven by the premier’s office.
  2. Surrey Mayor McCallum’s claim that the Expo Line extension to Langley would cost $1.63 billion was wildly wrong, yet no one, except Rail for the Valley, said anything! Where was the Mayor’s Council on Transit; where was the ministry of Transportation; where was TransLink’s CEO; who was protecting the taxpayer?
  3. There is currently no funding agreement, no business plan, no direction at all.
  4. The cost of the completion of the Broadway subway will cost $4.98 to $5.12 Billion and will take precedence over the Expo Line extension to Langley.
  5. Structural concrete prices increases alone, could add anywhere from $36 Million to $55 million per year on top of just the basic inflation for both projects.
  6. No mention of the much needed $3 billion rehab.
  7. TransLink has serious financial issues.
Dismal reading, as premier Horgan seems to be following the path of former premier Glen Clark and his liking of FastFerry boondoggles. We all know what happened afterwards, the NDP were unelectable for 19 years.
Premier Horgan is playing with fiscal fire a la the dread FastFerry fiasco!
It is extremely scary for both the taxpayer and the transit customer that the premier’s office is driving the expansion of SkyTrain, especially to Langley because we all know, when the premier of the province gets involve, common sense fiscal responsibility are thrown out the window, as the projects becomes a personal ego trip and we all know, premiers cannot seem to be wrong, especially at election time.


First, let us be honest with ourselves folks. I have crunched some numbers. The change in scope for the Surrey to Langley Skytrain Expo Line Extension Project (The SLS), from 2 stages into a single stage project was because of cost and nothing else. The cost to go 7 km to Fleetwood was around $1.69 Billion to $1.72 Billion, exceeding the $1.63 Billion budget. This is why they combined the 2 stages into a single stage project. The project to Fleetwood died months ago.

According to the second stage of Translink’s 10 year funding plan and the Rapid Transit Funding Agreement for the Surrey LRT Line, roughly $165 Million of that $1.63 Billion was coming from some past but mostly future tax and fee revenues (2018-2028 period). Translink’s local fuel taxes, development charges, parking fees, property tax increases as well as targeted amounts of Translink’s own passenger revenues were to help fund roughly 8.6% of the $7.3 Billion Second Stage of the 10 year funding plan, roughly $627.8 Million in total. This plan included the Broadway Millennium Line Extension to Arbutus, the Surrey LRT Line and many, many other smaller capital programs.

So far, the Translink funding for the Broadway extension is unaffected (no surprise). However, because of the pandemic, Translink is short $78.8 Million in planned revenues from 2019 and 2020 (their figures not mine), 2021 is not done yet and it may take years for Translink revenues to return to pre-pandemic levels. So it’s not $1.63 Billion in existing rapid transit funding, it’s actually around $1.55 Billion and dropping. If you don’t want to touch rapid transit funding, no less than $78.8 million must be taken out of the remaining $2.88 Billion in capital funding for the many other projects of the second stage of Translink’s 10 year capital funding plan.

My point, turning the Surrey to Langley Skytrain extension plan from a 2 stage plan to single stage plan was no gift to the public, the finances around the original 2 stage funding plan for the extension, quietly died. The massive increase in construction costs and the loss of Translink revenue from the pandemic, killed it.

Not only is a new business case needed but a whole new funding plan as well and it’s going to take 2 to 3 years to redo this process. So let’s be honest, currently, there isn’t enough funding for this $3.95 Billion extension. No business case, no funding plan, Translink isn’t even involved in the project management anymore, this is now a completely provincially run project. Translink may not be capable of being a full financial partner in this project or any other large capital project for some time, due to its current budget issues.

You have a PROMISE of $1.3 Billion but no specific formal funding agreement from the federal government as of yet (you guys are so lucky the Conservatives didn’t get elected).

The province of BC is now completely running the Surrey to Langley Extension. The project is $3.95 Billion and they could be having to kick in the entire remaining, $2.65 Billion, assuming there are no other cost increases in the coming months and the Liberals make good on their pre-election funding promise. This is not a good thing for the Surrey Extension.

The dark cloud on the horizon is beginning to show itself. According to the last information I had, Translink had to begin serious final planning and engineering on the second stage of the Broadway Millennium Line extension from Arbutus to UBC by 2024, if construction was to begin in 2026.

Again I crunched the numbers, as of today (in 2021 dollars), I estimate this extension project to cost between $4.98 to $5.12 Billion for the planned 7.3 km long tunnel and above grade structure into UBC, that’s right now, 2021. Zwei, can tell you about my accuracy in these matters if you don’t believe me. The actual date of final bidding and procurement will determine its actual final cost, when that is complete the final total will be known.

Again, I predict the cost of the Broadway Millennium Line extension from Arbutus to UBC to be between $4.98 and $5.12 Billion and the cost is growing between $158 to $164 Million every year due to the current estimate of inflation. That cost figure range I just gave you doesn’t include inflationary costs of construction materials, which is usually considerably higher than the basic inflation rate. Structural concrete prices increases alone, could add anywhere from $36 Million to $55 Million per year on top of just the basic inflation.

With the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in control and probably having to kick in most if not all of the remaining $2.65 Billion for the Skytrain to Langley as well as the coming political pressure to fund the UBC extension, assuming they again have to pick up almost 2/3 of that project in 2024, (to finish it around 2031), this leaves a total cost for the UBC project in 2024, to be around $5.62 Billion. Which means, a roughly 2/3 funding portion of $3.77 Billion for the BC government.

In a fight for just British Columbia’s portion of 2 Skytrain line extensions, whether they pay $2.65 Billion for the Langley project or wait and fund $3.77 Billion for UBC extension, both will not be funded at the same time. I believe Langley will lose out in this choice. Unless something drastically changes soon, the current Langley Skytrain extension project in its present form is dying and may be put off, well into the next decade.

Even when experts told people during your last civic election he was dead wrong, Surrey’sMayor’s claim of $1.63 billion was wildly wrong. The current Mayor said he could build this entire Skytrain project to Langley for just $1.63 Billion! Fun times! I warned everybody then, kill the LRT line, you are going to get nothing until the 2030’s.

And to think, we could have had Rail for the Valley’s Vancouver to Chilliwack passenger rail service, with a maximum of three trains per hour per direction, connecting Vancouver and Chillwack to Sadrdis/Vedder, Abbotsford, Langley, Cloverdale, and North Delta/Surrey for $1.3 billion!


One Response to “Premier Horgan’s FastFerry Redux!”
  1. Haveacow says:

    I just learned 2 things today. First, there is no Translink contribution to the Broadway Millennium Line extension to Arbutus, the only local component is the City of Vancouver’s 100 million worth of City owned land. The second, because of Covid 19 the entire second stage of Translink’s 10 year plan is being redone and is due in the spring of 2022.

    I hope some exploration of building costs and construction methods are done by the B.C. Infrastructure Ministry on the Langley Extension while we wait for Translink to do its new 10 year financing plan as well as the actual business plan for the Langley project. However, still no mention of the second stage extension of the Millennium Line.

    Zwei replies: I have been told by a retired professional engineer who has advised me in the past is that the boggy Serpentine Valley is posing big problems.

    With LRT, there was not much of a problem, but with the thousands of tons of cement needed for the guideway, big, big problems must be faced. These are the same problems facing any extension of the Canada line in Richmond; crossing a peat bog.

    The Serpentine Valley, he told me, was one of the reasons why LRT was chosen.

    The upshot, the cost for the Millennium line extension will do nothing but increase.

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