SkyTrain for Surrey is a grassroots campaign that has helped establish strong support for a SkyTrain extension on Fraser Highway. Today we are issuing the following points in response to the recent TransLink reveal of the construction costs for light rail and SkyTrain alternatives, TransLink’s decision in favour of LRT on Fraser Highway, and other recent statements related to the ongoing ‘LRT vs SkyTrain’ debate.
1. TransLink took position in favour of LRT behind closed doors
- According to a memo dated September 27, 2017, TransLink had officially taken the position of favouring LRT on the Surrey-Langley Line in the fall of last year – without making public the cost and performance info (i.e. travel times) to give the public a chance to comment. We believe that further presentations and statements by TransLink staff, the Regional Mayors’ Council and the TransLink board since September 27, 2017 have been biased in favour of the LRT alternative and against SkyTrain.
2. It is not “too far along” to cancel the LRT projects
- We believe that claims that it is “too far along” to cancel approved Light Rail projects (such as the Surrey-Newton-Guildford Light Rail Transit line) are misleading and unfounded. Processes do exist to cancel projects at further design stages.
- As an example, the City of Ottawa had an LRT proposal back in 2007 that was cancelled after the awarding of a design-build contract to Siemens. This move did result in delays and some legal tussle between the City of Ottawa and Siemens. However, a future iteration of the LRT project (Confederation Line) placed the downtown portion in an underground tunnel – a significant improvement, as the original design proposed street-running trains in downtown Ottawa.
3. Studies concluded that LRT would be significantly worse
- TransLink has stated that the selection of light rail technology for the Surrey-Newton-Guildford and Surrey-Langley lines was informed by “decades of studies” – most of which had concluded that light rail actually does not present the best value for money.
- As an example, the Surrey Rapid Transit Study multiple account evaluation, completed in 2012, concluded that the overall benefit-cost ratio for an LRT-based system was less than 1:1 – making the LRT alternative significantly worse than an alternative based on SkyTrain on Fraser Highway and Bus Rapid Transit on King George Blvd/104 Ave.
4. TransLink, Mayors’ Council & City of Surrey disregarded findings
- With respect to the above three points, it is our feeling that TransLink, the Regional Mayors’ Council, and the City of Surrey have disregarded the findings and conclusions of both the prior due-diligence work and feedback from public consultation, in their selection of LRT technology for the Surrey-Newton-Guildford and Surrey-Langley lines.
5. Costs of SkyTrain alternative have been overstated.
- Although the projected costs ($2.9 billion) for the Expo Line: Langley Extension are very high, a large part is the inclusion of a very generous 25% contingency allowance applied to construction, design and management; and a 20% contingency on property purchases. This $2.9 billion estimate is also in year-of-expenditure (2022) dollars. The preliminary cost report released by TransLink also included an estimate of $2.45 billion in more current (2016) dollars. As such, we believe that costs are being purposely overstated to dull public enthusiasm for the SkyTrain alternative.