Community rail proponent Rick Green appeared as a delegation before Chilliwack council to make a pitch for hydrogen-powered light rail from Surrey to Chilliwack.
“We’re leading the charge for South Fraser Community Rail, and calling it The Plan,” said Green, a former mayor of Langley Township. “It’s the smart way to solve the south of Fraser transportation and transit deficit.”
Green has made his pitch before in presentations for B.C. Premier John Horgan and the TransLink Board, and said the idea is backed by former premier Bill Vander Zalm.
Essentially, the plan is to reactivate the old “interurban corridor” using existing track, for emissions-free passenger rail service, powered by Canadian hydrogen fuel cell technology.
It would be cost-effective, “at less than eight per cent of the cost per kilometre of the Surrey to Langley LRT,” Green noted.
The old line was “protected” by a previous government for passenger use at “no cost for its use” due to a right-of-way owned by the people of B.C.
The estimated cost for the South Fraser community rail is $12.5 million per kilometre “all in.”
It would see a “spine” established as the main rail line, and a “rib” or road network feeding it by bus from the Pattullo Bridge and Chilliwack, “in the same way as the Skytrain,” Green offered.
The rail line would be “building economic growth,” while serving more than a million residents in 16 cities and communities, as well as 14 post-secondary institutions, the Abbotsford Airport, tourism and agri-tourism.
The Fraser Valley airshed “gets exponentially worse every year,” but the rail line would reduce emissions.
“One train would remove 177 cars from Highway 1,” Green told council.
“Development is a funny thing. We would all like to go back to the way it was but that isn’t going to happen,” Green said. “The Fraser Valley is growing exponentially and we have to manage it so we are able to live with a good quality of life.”
Green took issue with the support given from Chilliwack politicians for highway expansion as a solution to daily gridlock.
“Widening Highway 1, really?” he said. “Let’s be honest with residents.”
He said that would mean that widening a few kilometres at a time, which would take decades to achieve, and growth would outpace the expansion.
So what makes the community rail idea so attractive right now? he asked.
“The renewal of passenger rights in the Pratt-Livingston corridor, which is the section that goes through the two Langleys,” he said. “And the introduction of Alstom hydrogen technology, a B.C. invention and Canadian manufactured propulsion system from Missisauga.”
Green said the technology has been successfully operating in Germany for the past two years.
Green concluded with “the ask” for council support to establish a community-led and provincially endorsed task force to push the community rail proposal forward.
Coun. Chris Kloot thanked Green for the presentation. He called it a “no-brainer” and noted if the political will was there, the proposal “will happen.”
“I think it’s a project that certainly needs to happen sooner rather than later,” Kloot said.
In the end city council voted unanimously to send a letter to the Fraser Valley Regional District asking that South Fraser Community Rail committee reps be given an opportunity to make the presentation to the FVRD board.
More details on the plan for South Fraser Community Rail.