Transport Action BC

2014, July 3

CPR working on Arbutus Corridor – 2

The CPR continues to assess the Arbutus rail corridor for a possible return to operations. Some survey work and brush clearing has been completed. However, this work cannot be completed until encroachments on the R-o-W are removed. According to the railway’s web site, the encroachments on CPR property must be removed by July 31, 2014 to allow the railway to “… upgrade the rail line to ensure it meets the regulated safety requirements for our [CP’s] operations”. (Rick -link updated – 2015-02-10)

The well-established community gardens are considered encroachments so they, too, must be removed ( “transplanted” in CPR parlance). Obviously, this is upsetting residents who work on or simply enjoy the gardens. No official response from Vancouver city council as yet. However, 2014 is a civic election year so some fireworks will be forthcoming.

2014, May 25

CPR working on Arbutus Corridor – 1

The CPR recently caused a furore on Vancouver’s West Side by sending out a memoranda to residents titled “Notice to Residents – Train Activity in Your Community” regarding upcoming work on the Arbutus rail corridor. The company states that it will be surveying the line and evaluating track conditions with an eye to its ability to quickly access its Right-of-Way (R-o-W), make repairs and, possibly, run trains.

Crews have been clearing brush along the line, although, as of May 25, 2014, this had only been done south of Broadway. The “Community” Gardens that have taken over the R-o-W along West 6th Avenue are safe, at least temporarily. Update: May 28, 2014: Crews were clearing the tracks along West 6th Ave. but leaving the gardens untouched. Update: June 3, 2014: Crews had cleared to the north side of Broadway.

Anyone who has seen the R-o-W knows that it is useless for running trains and would require very large investments to make it  viable for train operations so what is the CPR’s real end game in this flurry of activity?

Unfortunately, local media have simply parroted resident’s concerns about the possibility of trains running by their back yards. Unasked are serious questions about the timing of this sudden interest by the CPR in its R-o-W, the line’s current condition, how much investment is required to re-build it, what businesses would be served by re-instated train services (the Bessborough Armoury  on West 11th?) , why has the brush clearing stopped at Broadway, etc.

Vancouver City Council is adamant that the line remain as a “greenway” until such time as it can be redeveloped as a north-south transit line. Unfortunately, the current “greenway” is also a convenient illegal dumping ground. Ironically, even crews installing transit stop concrete pads – a city responsibility –  at the WB  stop on 16th Ave.  at the R-o-W were seen dumping excess  soil on the R-o-W.

Gordon Price, the Director of SFU’s City Programme has commented that the CPR may be “softening up” local residents and Vancouver City Council for development proposals. This would fit with current CPR CEO Hunter Harrison’s drive to maximise shareholder value. The R-o-W is a valuable asset that is not generating revenue for the company.

Liability issues may be another CPR concern. An overgrown R-o-W, rotting ties, slippery rails and illegally dumped trash are potential hazards that could lead to messy and costly legal actions, if someone is injured on the property.

Or perhaps, the CPR is looking to the future and planning for construction of a subway line along Broadway. The Arbutus corridor is approximately midway between the Broadway rapid transit terminals – VCC/Clark and UBC. It could be an ideal staging location for bringing in heavy equipment for tunnel construction and also spoil removal. Using the rail line for these purposes would keep a significant amount of truck traffic off city streets.

This would provide the city with a north-south transportation corridor – just not the one it wanted.

2011, March 8

Fraser Valley Rail – Two conflicting visions

Filed under: Inter-city bus, Inter-city rail, Studies — Tags: , , — Matthew @ 12:10 am

The latest issue of The Sandhouse (Vol 35, No. 4, Issue 140 – Winter 2010/11) which is the journal of the Canadian Railroad Historical Association, Pacific Coast Division has a good summary of the Fraser Valley transit studies, one done for the BC government, the Fraser Valley Regional District, BC Transit and TransLink. The other study was sponsored by the group Rail for the Valley.

The article titled Visions of Fraser Valley rail collide in two studies: by Ian Smith. The first paragraph states:

Duelling visions of the future of rail transit in the Fraser Valley have emerged in two recent studies. One is decidely lukewarm on the prospects for rail even over an extended period, while the other proposes that work should start as soon as possible.

The eight page article describes both studies in depth and is well worth reading. Rail for the Valley is a group of people that want to see the old BC Electric Railway right of way, that is currently used for freight only, restored for passenger use. A major bottleneck would be the single track portion of the line in Langley between Cloverdale and the intersection of Highway 1 and Highway 10. This portion currently sees up to 18 coal trains and 12 container trains from CN and CP as well as trains of the short line operator Southern Railway of BC.

The Sandhouse is not widely distributed, I couldn’t find a current website for the group, but copies of the Sandhouse are available at Central Hobbies in Vancouver, and Kelly’s Kaboose in Kamloops.

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