Report supports valley light rail

Report supports valley light rail

By Christina Toth, The Times September 24, 2010

One hundred years after the Interurban rail wound its way across the Fraser Valley, light rail proponents are optimistic the passenger service can make a comeback after the release of a feasibility study on Monday.

Rail service could be re-established on about 100 kilometres of the existing B.C. Hydro-owned line for $500 million, with the main train depot possibly located in Abbotsford, said a report commissioned by the Rail for the Valley group.

“We’re tremendously excited. This is the most comprehensive light rail study ever undertaken in this province, performed by an outfit with expertise in light rail solutions,” said John Buker, a founder of RFTV and a study co-ordinator.

“This is an independent analysis by a respected company based in Great Britain that has a very solid track record in rail planning, including work on, among other things, the Channel Tunnel.

“This report will, at long last, provide us with an honest accounting of the potential for passenger rail service on the Interurban corridor. This is something that has been sorely lacking in all provincial government-commissioned studies to date,” said Buker.

The track is currently owned by B.C. Hydro, and is used for freight by Southern Railway.

The author, David Cockle of Leewood Projects of England, reviewed the potential for an affordable and sustainable public light rail service on the existing and publicly owned Interurban rail corridor, which runs 98 kilometres from Chilliwack to Surrey. He proposes two options, one diesel and one electric, plus future links to Richmond, Burnaby, Vancouver and east of Chilliwack.

The report projects capital costs for the diesel/hybrid option for the Chilliwack-Scott Road line at $500 million, or $5 million per kilometre, and $606 million for an electric option, or $6.2 per km. There would be 10 stops along this corridor.

The report proposes three trains per hour on the route during commuter peak times on week days, twice an hour during non-peak times and weekends.

Riders could use a microchip smart card that could be prepaid and reloaded for any combination of ride tickets.

Costs to the rider would have to be comparable or cheaper than current bus fares or driving, the author writes.

Travel times are estimated to be 90 minutes from Chilliwack to the Scott Road SkyTrain Station, 45 minutes from Abbotsford to Surrey, and about 85 minutes from Abbotsford to downtown Vancouver, for commuters who transfer to SkyTrain in Surrey. The trip from Knight Road in Sardis to Abbotsford would be under 30 minutes, and from Chilliwack to Yarrow, 13.5 minutes.

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