Archive for October 30th, 2009

Getting Valley rail on track – From the Abby News

October 30, 2009


More positive news from the Fraser Valley Press.

Getting Valley rail on track

Published: October 28, 2009 2:00 PM

A regular train service arrives in downtown Abbotsford from Surrey and Langley, collecting passengers and transporting them to other areas of the city or as far east as Chilliwack.

It may sound like a long-term dream for rail enthusiasts, but according to a newly formed group pushing for the service, it could become a reality sooner rather than later.

The South of the Fraser Rail Task Force is currently looking for the backing of Valley municipalities in its push for rail connectivity.

Should that happen, it wants to see a “demonstration project” conducted on the old interurban line, to determine whether the track is a viable long-term option to help link communities.

The group has been put together by Langley Township Mayor Rick Green, and task force member Peter Holt was in Abbotsford on Monday to pitch the group’s case to mayor and council.

Holt said trains would start at Scott Road in Surrey and wind through the Valley to Chilliwack. They would cross various parts of Surrey, Langley, Gloucester Estates at the Langley and Abbotsford border, through Abbotsford towards Sumas (via the University of the Fraser Valley), and then across to Yarrow and Chilliwack.

“This will be a new mode of transit south of the Fraser, joining our own communities and not the communities into Vancouver,” he said. “The good thing is that we are sitting on billions of dollars worth of assets.”

A similar pitch is being made by the group to other communities, and has also been put to the Fraser Valley Regional District.

It is an initiative well-worth pursuing, according to local rail enthusiast John Vissers, who is also involved with the group.

“We believe the political will and the community desire is there – that’s been demonstrated over and over again,” Vissers told The News, describing Abbotsford as a “hub” for light rail in the Fraser Valley.

“We have a local bus system, but we have no way for people to get from community to community without buying expensive cars.”

The interurban line between Abbotsford and Chilliwack is currently only used twice a day by freight trains. Visser said that because the line is taxpayer-owned, public trains are allowed to use it 33 per cent of the time.

“There’s a cost involved, but it would create a culture that at the moment does not exist,” he said. “I think its a no-brainer. It’s something that’s long overdue.”

Abbotsord Coun. Lynne Harris believes the community to be “supportive” of a rail network that connects Abbotsford to nearby cities.

“These are tough economic times, but there’s infrastructure already there and that makes it potentially doable.”

Costs from $200M to $700M

While there is no study that estimates specific costs for the Interurban route between Surrey and Chilliwack, research commissioned by the City of Surrey in 2007 found that a basic Surrey to Langley service would cost approximately $200 million ($6 million per kilometre).

A similar TransLink study, which called for a more “deluxe” level of service between the two cities, puts costs closer to $700 million ($27 million per kilometre).

Ray Mufford, a director with the Valley Transportation Advisory Committee which is pushing for the interurban l ine, estimated that a basic half-hourly train service – running approximately 60 kilometres from Surrey to Chilliwack – would cost approximately $600 million.

That would include all track upgrades, he said, as well as trains, work at existing crossings, and new train stations.

Light rail proponents argue those numbers are just a fraction of what it costs to expand SkyTrain routes.


The German East Frisian Islands Railways – Interurbans all the same.

October 30, 2009

The small German East Frisian Islands of Borkum, Langeoog, Wangeroog, and Spiekeroog all operate narrow guage railways to help service tourist destinations on the almost car free ecologically sensitive islands. Even though the trains operated are steam or diesel hauled, they preform the function of an interurban, conveying passengers from ferry piers to the main villages. Having rail transport means that auto traffic on island roads roads are kept to the bare minimum or not at all, preserving the idyllic nature of the islands.

The Friesian island railways do provide a small lesson for Rail to the Valley as the proposed Fraser Valley Interurban will not only function as an alternative to the car for valley residents, but convey tourists from downtown Vancouver, up through the Fraser Valley with a transit mode that hasn’t been available in 60 years.


Borkum is bordered to the west by the Westereems strait (which forms the border with the Netherlands), to the east by the Osterems strait, to the north by the North Sea, and to the south by the Wadden Sea. It is the largest and westernmost of the East Frisian Islands in the North Sea, due north of the Dutch province of Groningen.

The island is partially car-free. Off-season, driving by car is permitted everywhere, otherwise there are car-free zones. The only town on the island is also called Borkum. Passengers get a free train ride between the harbour and the town of Borkum.



Langeoog is one of the seven inhabited East Frisian Islands at the edge of the Lower Saxon Wadden Sea in the southern North Sea, located between Baltrum Island (west), and Spiekeroog (east). It is also a municipality in the district of Wittmund in Lower Saxony, Germany. The main ferry termainal and town are connected by a short railway.



Wangerooge is the eastern most and smallest of the inhabited East Frisian islands in this group (according to some other measurements, Baltrum is the smallest) and the only one that belonged to the historical district of Oldenburg between 1815 and 1947, whereas Borkum, Juist, Norderney, Baltrum, Langerooge and Spiekerooge always belonged to the county of Ostfriesland. As of the census of 2004, the island has 1,055 inhabitants. Especially in summer the island accommodates more than 7,000 visitors a day.

In order to guarantee recreation, cars are prohibited on the island. The island can be reached by ship from Harlesiel, or it can be reached by plane from Harlesiel, Bremen, or Hamburg. The ferries leave at different times every day according to the tide. As on most East Frisian Islands, a small narrow gauge railway line, the Wangerooge Island Railway, connects the harbor to the main village.

The single track Wangerooge Island Railway (Wangerooger Inselbahn) is an unelectrified narrow gauge railway with a rail gauge of 1,000 mm located on the East Frisian island of Wangerooge off the northwestern coast of Germany. It is the most important means of transport on the island and is the only narrow gauge railway operated today by the Deutsche Bahn.

1 Wangerooge_Bahnhof_Dorf


Spiekeroog is one of the smaller of the East Frisian Islands, off the North Sea coast of Germany. It is situated between Langeoog to its west, and Wangerooge to its east. The island belongs to the municipality of the district of Wittmund, in Lower Saxony in Germany. The only village on the island is also called Spiekeroog.

There is a quaint diesel rail service on the island and from April to September (depending on holiday times), a horse-driven railway operates between the old railway station and Westend.