Despite concerns over delayed construction after Metro Vancouver mayors’ opted for SkyTrain over light rail, TransLink plans show the agency intends to finish its South of the Fraser rail plans just one year behind schedule.
TransLink and the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation had long planned for light rail in Surrey and along the Fraser Highway to Langley.
The $1.65 billion Surrey-Newton-Guildford portion was scheduled to start operations in 2024 but those plans were thrown out after newly-elected Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum convinced the Mayors’ Council to look at SkyTrain instead.
Newly-posted draft SkyTrain plans from TransLink show how the agency plans to convert over to a SkyTrain line along Fraser Highway and enhance B-Line service in the Surrey-Newton-Guildford area.
A TransLink spokesperson confirmed the 2025 completion date was for spending the $1.65 billion already set aside for light rail in Surrey-Newton-Guildford.
The available funding will push SkyTrain further into Surrey along Fraser Highway, but will not be sufficient to extend the line all the way to Langley.
Although TransLink says the $1.65 billion in funding for light rail will likely transfer over to SkyTrain, much of that money comes from senior government and the agency will have to submit a new business case in order to transfer it to a different form of rail.
Newly-posted draft SkyTrain plans from TransLink show that the agency plans on completing at least the Surrey portion of the 16 kilometre SkyTrain line from Surrey to Langley by 2025, just one year after the Surrey-Newton-Guildford light rail line was scheduled to be completed.
The plans do not include a cost estimate for the new SkyTrain line but the agency currently has $30 million set aside for “pre-design work” in 2019. Light rail along Fraser Highway was estimated to cost $1.9 billion, while SkyTrain was forecasted to come in at $2.9 billion.
As of December, TransLink says it has spent $56.6 million on light rail, down from a $77 million estimate the month prior.
All planned 27 kilometres of South of the Fraser rapid transit are expected to cost $3.5 billion.
However, McCallum has said he believes SkyTrain could be built for nearly the same cost as previously-planned light rail.
The new proposal would see the cancellation of planned B-Lines along Fraser Highway, that were supposed to serve as a “prelude to rail” and start running in 2019.
Instead, TransLink would “develop a new service plan” that addresses “overcrowding and improves service quality” along Fraser Highway.
The agency notes that public consultation may be needed before it proceeds with “cost-effective” transit plans for that corridor, in order to build ridership before SkyTrain comes in.
It recommends some funding be set aside to upgrade the 96 B-Line for the Surrey-Newton-Guildford area, as it will no longer be getting light rail service.
An alignment concept summary from TransLink shows the Fraser Highway SkyTrain would be elevated, despite previous statements from McCallum that the line could be more cheaply completed at ground level.
The 16-kilometre line would connect to the end of the Expo Line at King George Station and include eight new stations at first, with plans for another one later on, and bus exchanges at Willowbrook and Langley Centre. There is no completion date set for the Langley portion of the line.
It would require 55 new SkyTrain cars.
TransLink’s proposal will be presented to the Mayors’ Council at their Dec. 13 meeting.