SkyTrain to Nowhere

SkyTrain built for the same price as light rail, think not.

The real cost, will be somewhere around $3 billion, but then include the Expo line rehab, the cost will be orbiting around $6 billion.

If the regional mayors cave in to the demands of Surrey’s mayor, they will set back transit expansion by a generation, if not more.

The history of SkyTrain in Metro Vancouver is a sordid one, based on political whim, bureaucratic ineptitude, media hubris, and corporate greed.

Who is not afraid to say no more SkyTrain?

And who is not afraid to say adios to TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond?

B.C. premier says no more additional money for Surrey SkyTrain

Published: December 12, 2018

Updated: December 12, 2018

A SkyTrain leaves Surrey Central SkyTrain station.
A SkyTrain leaves Surrey Central SkyTrain station. Francis Georgian / PNG

TransLink says SkyTrain to Langley could cost $2.6 billion. Surrey’s mayor believes it is possible for the $1.65-billion allocated for the cancelled Newton-Guildford LRT.

VICTORIA — Premier John Horgan says there’s no additional provincial money available for Surrey if it needs more to pay for Mayor Doug McCallum’s election promise to switch to SkyTrain.

Horgan said he’s spoken with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and both governments will only fund the amount they’d previously agreed to — roughly 40 per cent each — for Phase 2 two of Metro Vancouver’s transit expansion plan.

Originally, that plan included a $1.65-billion Surrey-Newton-Guildford light rail transit project. But the Mayor’s Council on Regional Transportation voted to suspend LRT in November after McCallum won the Surrey mayoralty on a promise to switch to a SkyTrain line from Surrey to Langley, which TransLink estimates could cost more than $2.6 billion.

“The two orders of government, federal and provincial, are doing what they can to provide more money to get this going,” Horgan told Postmedia News on Wednesday.

“If Mr. McCallum wants to raise taxes in Surrey to fill the gap he’s welcome to. I don’t think the people of Surrey will embrace that. But that’s the only way there’s going to be more money, it’s going to come out of his pocket not out of the federal or provincial pie.”

The region’s mayors will vote Thursday on whether to start planning for SkyTrain on a timetable of operation by 2025.

How to fund the apparent billion-dollar gap between LRT and SkyTrain remains a point of contention.

McCallum has said he thinks the entire Surrey to Langley SkyTrain line can be built for much less than TransLink estimates.

Mayors said in November that any SkyTrain proposal should only draw on the $1.65 billion set aside for Phase 2 — though that won’t be enough to build the full 16-kilometre line to the centre of Langley.

Phase 3 of the mayors’ plan also has another $1.9 billion allocated for rapid transit South of the Fraser, but that part of the plan has not yet been funded, and what kind of rapid transit it will be used for — SkyTrain, light rail or rapid bus — has not yet been determined. The Mayors’ Council will vote tomorrow on whether to direct TransLink staff to go ahead with a refresh of that rapid transit plan.

TransLink plans to prepare a business case for Surrey SkyTrain within the next year. To date, it has not asked the provincial or federal governments for any additional funding.

Horgan said it’s “just not on” if McCallum expects to turn to the B.C. government to cover his election promise of SkyTrain.

“If they want to do SkyTrain I’m good with that but it won’t go as far, it’s a simple as that,” said Horgan. “You won’t get as many kilometres done with the money on the table.”

Horgan also took a pre-emptive shot at McCallum in case he wants to try to shift blame to the provincial government.

“It will not be acceptable to me if he turns around and says this is all the province’s fault, because we had a plan fully funded ready to go supported by the pervious council and the one before that,” said Horgan.

The premier also warned of “consequences” in the form of delays as well, but said he will leave it up to local mayors to advise him on their plans.

“I’m happy to take guidance from Mayor McCallum and his council, but they have to understand they can’t just come rolling into Dodge and say I want another billion or I’m going to hold my breath,” said Horgan. “That’s not going to help anybody.”

McCallum did not return a request for comment Wednesday.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond reiterated Wednesday that the available budget in his mind for SkyTrain would be the $1.6 billion previously approved for Phase 2.

“We will take the line as far as we can take it with the $1.65 billion available now,” he said.

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