EDITORIAL: Train stop somewhere in Surrey a good idea

In late June, the City of White Rock announced that it was unable to make progress in convincing Amtrak to have its passenger trains stop in the city.

The issue drew some media attention, but as there have been no passenger trains stopping in the city for almost 40 years, few people gave it a second thought.

What was missing from this announcement and the earlier discussions with Amtrak was backing from the City of Surrey. Surrey, White Rock and surrounding areas have a population of about 600,000 people, and there is no doubt that Amtrak would be accessible to many more potential customers with a stop somewhere in the area.

In the spring, I gained an interesting personal perspective on this. A group of us, mostly from Surrey, travelled from Vancouver to Seattle on an overnight cruise. It turned out that one of the best ways to get back was via Amtrak, which now operates two daily trains in each direction between Seattle and Vancouver.

We boarded the evening train that leaves Seattle just before 7 p.m. Before booking tickets, we looked into travelling to Vancouver, or getting off the train in Bellingham, the last stop before Vancouver. It was a no-brainer.

By getting off in Bellingham at 9 p.m., we were all able to get home by about 10:30 p.m. The Amtrak train doesn’t even arrive in Vancouver until almost 11 p.m., and then passengers must clear customs and immigration. When that is complete, any passengers from Surrey face another 30 to 45 minutes travel back to an area the train already passed through.

Not too many Surrey passengers will be willing to do that. It’s easier to drive.

The trains have good passenger loads between Bellingham and Seattle, with fewer passengers travelling all the way to Vancouver. Undoubtedly, the added length of the trip and the need to clear customs keeps some people away.

That’s why a stop somewhere in the general Surrey area would make so much sense, and would boost ridership. However, as noted when White Rock Mayor Catherine Ferguson announced the lack of progress on making White Rock a stop, there are a number of contributing factors.

One is that Amtrak does not want to make the trip any longer. Another is that track conditions on the Canadian side of the border need improvement, and no level of government is interested in putting any money into that.

The third complication is the need to clear customs. It would be possible for Canadian customs officials to clear passengers while the train is travelling northwards, if Canada Border Services Agency were so inclined.

The train is only a viable alternative if the trip can be made in decent time. That’s why it made so much sense for our group to get off in Bellingham, and make arrangements to be picked up there. Our trip from downtown Seattle to home didn’t take too much longer than if we had driven that distance.

If all those details could be worked out, an Amtrak stop somewhere along the BNSF rail line between the border and the Alex Fraser Bridge could be a boon to Amtrak, and a real benefit to Surrey, White Rock and Delta residents.

It may not happen any time soon, but it is a very worthwhile long-term objective.

Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Claiming she has COVID-19, stranger coughs in Cloverdale woman’s face

Clayton Heights woman will now self-isolate for the next two weeks

Quarantined Surrey mom say pandemic has put special-needs families in ‘crisis mode’

Cloverdale’s Christine Williams shares her family’s challenges, strengths

Police watchdog finds cops blameless for deaths in 2019 Surrey hostage-taking

Woman was killed as ERT officers fired on man holding a knife to her throat and ‘what appeared to be’ a gun in his hand

No, Delta police are not pulling over cars to check for social distancing

DPD dispelling rumour cops pulling over vehicles with two or more people, checking IDs, issuing fines

B.C. couple celebrates 61st anniversary through seniors’ home window

Frank and Rena Phillips marked occasion at Nanaimo Seniors Village this week while social distancing

World COVID-19 update: Six million U.S. jobless claims; Russia sends medical aid to U.S.

Comprehensive update with COVID-19 news from around the world

A look at some of the B.C. inventors creating life-saving tools in fight against COVID-19

Groups across B.C. are working together to create what they hope will help people affected by the pandemic

Association launches French-language games, online tools for families learning at home

Games, culture and vocabulary included in new virtual resources

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

55+ BC Games cancelled amid COVID-19 concerns

Greater Victoria set to host 2021 event

BC Hydro offers three-month bill ‘holiday’ for those affected by COVID-19

Industrial customers can defer half of their power bills

VIDEO: Dog missing in Lower Mainland since winter sees his family again for the first time

Aldergrove helped find Buster, says dad, who has now witnessed ‘the power of social media’

Some April Fool’s Day jokes bring much-needed laughter; others tone deaf to COVID-19

Police are warning the public not to use the ongoing pandemic as a punchline

Most Read