Rural Railways – Who Would They Serve


A lot has been said that the Leewood/Rail for the Valley scheme would not attract much ridership because it isn’t fast, yet the same folks who use this excuse to nay say the “return of the interurban” fail to realize that the Vancouver to Chilliwack rail route will service many new destinations thus user friendliness combined with comfort of a modern D/EMU will attract ridership.

The planned 16 km, $4.5 to  $5 billion Expo Line extension to Langley does not serve any new destinations which the current transit customer cannot get to by bus or bus plus transfer to the Expo Line. There is no real attraction in taking the Expo line, except as a regular transit customer. You may save 10 to 15 minutes in travel time, traveling past Surrey Centre, but is that time savings worth $5 billion?

With many transit customers having to take a bus to the Expo line stations, the time savings for the 16 km extension is over rated.

Simplicity is the key for a rural railway. A simple station for Ottawa's Trillium Line.

Simplicity is the key for a rural railway. A simple station for Ottawa’s Trillium Line.

Now let’s have look at the proposed Leewood/RftV plan and see the many new destinations that will be served by the proposed service.

As the Leewood RftV plan is a regional railway, let us look at selected destinations along its 130 km route:

1) Vancouver
2) North Delta – providing a faster travel time to Vancouver than the Expo line.
3) Central Surrey – high density housing plus business parks.
4) Cloverdale – front door service for the proposed hospital and Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
5) Langley – Central Langley and KPU Langley
6) Trinity Western University – front door service
7) Gloucester Business Park
8) Downtown Abbotsford – University of the Fraser Valley
9) Huntington – US Border and Abbotsford International airport
10) Yarrow/Vedder – For Cultus lake
11) Sardis

12) Chilliwack

Not including town centres, there are eight new destinations directly serviced by the “interurban”, including: central Surrey business parks; KPU and the proposed Cloverdale hospital;  KPU Langley; Trinity Western University; the Gloucestor business Park; the University of the Fraser Valley; and the American boarder at Huntington/Sumas (only a few km away from Abbotsford airport – YXX).

Secondary destinations would be Vancouver, Chilliwack, Cultus Lake and YXX. Then there is the tourist appeal of such a service, which the Expo Line extension does not have..

The Leewood/RvtV plan would attract far more new customers as a far cheaper cost, showing the cost effectiveness of the rural railway. A cost effectiveness that the province, Metro Vancouver, TransLink and the Mot refuse to acknowledge.

Building more, cheaper should be the mantra for new transit projects, especially in the age of Global Warming and climate change and the regional or rural railway provides exactly what is so desperately needed.

The essence of a rural railway, an affordable alternative to the car.

The essence of a rural railway, an affordable alternative to the car.




One Response to “Rural Railways – Who Would They Serve”
  1. Haveacow says:

    To be fair, they are severely updating and enlarging those simple stations on the Trillium Line and although the line is in a heavily suburban and in a park like setting for most of its length, it’s really not rural line. The picture of the O-Train in the previous post of it crossing the bridge over the Transitway just south of the VIA Rail crossing is a bit of a relic now as well. Transport Canada forced us to build a massive and tall, single track bridge over both the Transitway and the VIA Rail crossing, due to the frequency dropping below 15 minutes on the the Trillium Line (refered to as the Elwood Diamond Separation Project). The entire line is set to reopen next year.

    For $810 Million the Trillium Line is being:

    1. Lengthened from 8 km to 24 km, including a separated 3 km branch to the airport, 12 km of mainline as well as 8 stations are to be double tracked.
    2. Each station platform lengthened from 35m to 80m long.
    3. Getting 2 new stations on the original 5 km section, 4 new stations on the extended route to the Riverside South Community plus 2 new stations on the branch to the Airport, 5 existing stations rebuilt and upgraded.
    4. Will have a service frequency of 8 to 10 minutes.
    5. Given 8 new bridges and overpasses, 6 upgraded bridges and overpasses as well as 3 new pedestrian bridges.
    6. 7 new 80 m long Stadler Flirt DMU’s (upgradeable to electric or hydrogen power) and upgrades to the 6
    Lint 41 DMU’s
    7. A new much larger operations, maintenance centre and yard (now operating).

    Originally the O-Train was built and opened in 2001 as a 2 year pilot project, costing $21 million to rebuild 8 km of mostly single track, add 5 stations (double track at one station for trains to pass each other), $11 million for 3 Bombardier Talent DMU’s and $8 million for 2 years of operating insurance, $40 Million in total. The line had a 20 minute frequency, later upgraded to 15 minutes in 2004.

    In 2004 the sectional rail was replaced with continuously welded rail for about $18 million (including the yard and the old maintenance centre).

    In 2015, $60 million was spent so that, the 3 original DMU’s could be replaced with 6 new Lint 41 DMU’s. 2 to 3 km of double track, in 2 sections, was added as well as a new, mostly functional, signaling system.

    The running total cost for the whole line at this point was $118 million. The service frequency was originally supposed to be reduced to 10 minutes but significant signaling issues as well as poorer than expected acceleration on the Lint 41 DMU’s meant only 12 minute frequency of service was possible.

    The line was originally expected to carry 4500 passengers per day in 2001. It opened moving over 6100 per day. The line was carrying 12,000 per day by 2011 and 20,000 per day by 2019. In 2020 it was shut down for upgrades.

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