New Hope For-Light Rail Folks ~ Brian Lewis, May 17, 2009 Province


New hope for light-rail folks


Brian Lewis has done some research on the ‘Interurban’ project and has written another interesting and supportive article.

Discovery of a long-forgotten legal document is giving new hope to advocates for re-establishing passenger rail service in the Fraser Valley.

It’s a 21-year-old Master Agreement between B.C. Hydro and Canadian Pacific. The Township of Langley says it discloses for the first time that the B.C. government, not the railway, holds the legal rights to run passenger-rail services on a section of the old Interurban line through Langley Township and the City of Langley.

As the original owner of the Interurban service that ran from Vancouver through Surrey, Langley and Abbotsford to Chilliwack until the early 1950s, B.C. Hydro and the provincial government maintained title to the entire right-of-way, even though above-ground rail assets on the section through Langley — known as the Pratt-Livingstone Corridor — were sold to CP for its service to Deltaport.

In effect, says Langley Township Mayor Rick Green, not only does the deal mean that CP must allow passenger-rail service on its freight line, but that it must allow that service to run at no charge. This, the mayor adds, means that the economics for establishing some form of light-rail transit on the old Interurban would be enhanced considerably, unlike the West Coast Express north of the Fraser River, which pays significant fees to CP for use of those tracks.

“Our provincial government of the day deserves an abundance of credit in its efforts to protect the public’s right to passenger transportation on the Pratt-Livingston Corridor, a right previously thought not to exist,” Green adds. And the mayor says the agreement’s requirement on passenger service may also check growth in additional freight rail traffic that carries containers and coal exports through Langley if future expansions of Deltaport are completed.

The mayor says 18 heavy freight trains now run through Langley daily, but if Deltaport’s full expansion proceeds that could increase to as many as 90 trains per day. “You can’t build a healthy community under those circumstances and anyone who wouldn’t stand up and fight against that must have something wrong with them,” he adds.

Green also sees the agreement as a key to advancing establishment of rapid-rail transit in the Fraser Valley.

He says that given discovery of the agreement, the township will now ask the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society to expand its planned 2010 Heritage Rail Demonstration Project, which will utilize a refurbished Interurban heritage car to run a tourist service from Sullivan Station in Surrey to Cloverdale. Green wants this pilot service to extend into the township’s Milner area, where a heritage Interurban station would be constructed.

However, before any of this happens the Master Agreement must be renewed; it expires Aug. 29. The township is now seeking assurances from B.C. Hydro that it will renew the agreement in full with the railway. “Our legal team is reviewing the agreement right now and we definitely support the preservation of passenger-rail rights on the corridor,” says Hydro spokesman Dag Sharman.

As for CP, it’s being tight-lipped. “We haven’t seen the township’s analysis or its legal opinions,” says spokesman Mike LoVecchio. “At this stage, in our view whatever they’re saying is speculative.”

Stay tuned.

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