Getting Valley rail on track – From the Abby News



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.


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