The provincial government is considering the future of the old Interurban rail link through Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack.
Bowinn Ma, B.C.’s minister of state for infrastructure, visited a number of transit hubs along the Trans Canada Highway in Langley on Wednesday, July 21.
Ma said that the government is looking at land use and how the highway interacts with other transit options, including SkyTrain, as well as other potential rail commuter projects such as reviving the Interurban.
“We are taking a serious look at seeing whether that’s a viable option,” Ma said.
The Interurban line existed from the early 1910s to the 1950s, and was officially known as the British Columbia Electric Railway.
At its peak, it extended all the way from Vancouver through Burnaby, New Westminster, across the Fraser River to Surrey, and through Langley as far east as Chilliwack.
It provided passenger and light cargo service for what were then predominantly rural communities south of the Fraser River and out into the Valley.
The rail lines are still in place and portions of them are used by mile-long fright trains as part of the Southern Railway of British Columbia.
Ma said the province is looking at how various transit and road components fit together as part of an Integrated Transportation Development Strategy.
However, Langley City Mayor Val van den Broek said she doesn’t think the Interurban will take off.
“We’ve already studied that with TransLink,” van den Broek said. “That’s already been put to bed.”
The idea was researched extensively and wasn’t found to be viable, she said.
The resumption of the Interurban service has been promoted by South Fraser Community Rail, with involvement of local political figures like former Langley Township mayor Rick Green and former premier Bill Vander Zalm, who held “Rally for Rail” events in 2019.
However, a 2019 TransLink report said the existing rail route would be expensive and in many areas it does not connect high-density neighbourhoods. The rail line is close to Cloverdale and passes through downtown Langley’s core and the Gloucester Industrial Park, but much of its lenght in Langley is in rural areas.
With the federal funding now pledged for SkyTrain from Surrey to Langley, the next phase has to be some kind of transit out into the Fraser Valley, van den Broek said.
“What that looks like right now, I can’t say,” she said.
Ma also said the province will extend the route of BC Transit’s Fraser Valley Express bus, which currently stops at Langley’s Carvolth transit hub, all the way to the Lougheed SkyTrain Station in 2022.
Removing transfers between TransLink jurisdictions and BC Transit areas helps reduce inconvenience, Ma said.