January 16, 2019

South of Fraser Rail Proposal Includes Salvo Fired at Surrey’s McCallum

Former Township of Langley Mayor Rick Green is advocating for 99km of passenger rail to connect Surrey to Chilliwack.

In a letter posted on Medium yesterday, Green’s proposal includes a map depicting a starting point at the Pattullo Bridge, with stops throughout Surrey, the Langleys, Aldergrove, Abbotsford, and ultimately ending in Chilliwack.

The image is notable for harkening back to the days of paper creases and highlighters (the cocktail napkin did not make publication), and for showing the world the lengths we may go to service Sumas.

The proposed route is actually the former BC Hydro Freight Division rail corridor — sold off by the province in 1988 — with passenger rights apparently intact and in the public domain.

In addition to promising economic growth and quality of life gains of a ‘South Fraser Community Rail’, Green simultaneously rakes Mayor Doug McCallum over the coals for rushing forward with the Surrey Skytrain proposal:

This project does absolutely nothing for our region, or for the municipalities that fall beyond Surrey.

Read the full letter here. Thanks to Tom Durning for the tip.

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    1. That sounds about right. The line was built as a milk run to hit all the agricultural hubs of the valley at a time when the competition was either the horse-cart-on-dirt-road or infrequent steam train.

    2. Started reading then stopped. Its a myopic approach. Any means of moving people South of Fraser needs to cover Delta to Chiliwack, AND it cant focus on ridership – a transit perspective. This is not transit. It is a rail people mover. Where the first focuses on moving people North of Fraser to feed businesses there (an economic argument), a SOF rail people mover complements Highway 1 to provide an alternative to go places SOF – for social and economic purposes. So the business case must be built on the population base it would serve, now 800,000 (rough guess)to a potential 1.5 million, what some say is going to happen in 20 years (lol I think it is going to be much higher).

    1. It’s not clear who commissioned this report or why- or why it was conducted by a UK consultant, seemingly as a passion project. In any event, this is a technical feasibility report, and I don’t think anyone’s saying it can’t possibly be done if you throw enough money at it.

      But is there a viable business case for this? A train to Whistler can’t even stay in business. Who the hell is clamoring for a 3-hour train trip to Chilliwack? The Blueberry Festival isn’t THAT nice. But maybe I’m wrong.

      1. The report projected a cost per ride of $70-110 dollars for the interurban. For comparison the forecast cost for the highway 1 bus with dedicated lanes was $5.75. The costs are better for the Langley section and I think eventually they could make something out of it but it still ain’t pretty.

  1. The BCER route went via Sumas because Sumas Lake blocked the direct route until it was drained in the 1920s by the Vedder Canal.