Local Liberal MP Dan Ruimy doesn’t see CP Rail sharing the tracks with the West Coast Express down the line, even though the federal government has promised funding for more cars.
Between Oct. 1 and Dec. 8, the service was delayed 319 times, local mayors pointed out in a December letter to CP Rail and Transport Minister Marc Garneau.
And in a letter from December, CP Rail also questioned the continued sharing of the lines.
There could come a day when a separate system, light rail or SkyTrain, moves commuters to and from Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, said Ruimy.
“That would be my preference. I don’t think long-term-wise, we are best served by sharing the line. I would like to see SkyTrain, if not light rail,” he added.
“I think that’s something we’re going to need, especially if we’re going to grow at the rate we’re growing. We need our own dedicated line.”
Ruimy (Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission) said he’s told Garneau about the frustration people feel with the dozens of delays from last fall.
“When you have this many challenges and expecting this many people, it’s not acceptable.”
Ruimy said, in 20 years, the population could double in the region.
“Transportation is huge.”
Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker, however, said it’s more realistic to gradually expand West Coast Express rather than build a new SkyTrain line.
“I just can’t see it,” he added.
“We can incrementally improve the West Coast Express. But if you go from a SkyTrain, or light rail, you start from zero and then add $10 billion. That’s a pretty big step.”
Becker pointed out that last year, when the city was discussing a rail overpass at Harris Road, another dedicated track was part of the discussion in order to accommodate a separate West Coast Express line.
“One of the engineering specifications that CP agreed on was that, if we would proceed with the underpass, we would allow for an extra track to accommodate an independent West Coast Express.”
“Apparently, CP feels the extra track is certainly doable and would think that the right of way is there and you would twin track the thing, potentially from Mission to Waterfront [station].”
He said that extending SkyTrain from Coquitlam into Pitt Meadows or Maple Ridge is not in the mayor’s 10-year transportation vision.
“That’s way down the road, and we would support that, but there’s absolutely no business case for it, certainly within the 10-year plan. From a business case and a population-density case, it is much more probable that we would see a separate West Coast Express than a brand new, multi-billion-dollar system dropped into the north side of the Fraser [River].”
Becker wants all levels of government involved in planning transportation projects.
Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read also said there’s no light rail system envisaged for Maple Ridge in the mayor’s plan on transportation.
“If there’s money available, and willingness from all the partners, then anything can happen.”
But, she added, what are the priorities?
“CP has a multi-year agreement with TransLink and will continue our longstanding relationship as we balance the needs of all of our customers, freight and passenger, going forward,” said Salem Woodrow, of CP Rail.
“West Coast Express’ on-time performance was 95.6 percent in 2016. CP met with TransLink in December 2016 to discuss capacity issues and is committed to providing West Coast Express customers with the timely service they expect in 2017.”
The commuter rail service began in 1995 with five rush-hour trains between Mission and Vancouver.
TransLink and CP Rail reached a new agreement in 2015 for leasing of West Coast Express track time from CP, but the agreement is confidential.
Premier Justin Trudeau announced in June that Ottawa is providing $370 million from its new Public Transit Infrastructure Fund for the first phase of TransLink’s 10-year transportation plan.
The province is contributing $308 million provincewide, while Metro Vancouver cities are supposed to make up the balance, for a total of $900 million in transit spending in the region.
Some of that money will go adding new cars to each of the five West Coast Express trains.