An Alstom “Coradia iLint” train, touted by the company as the “world’s first hydrogen powered train.” The train is pitched by South Fraser Community Rail group for use from Surrey to Chilliwack along the existing interurban rail line. (Photo: Alstom)

GUEST COLUMN: Looks like TransLink aims to ‘short-circuit’ plan for rail service on Interurban corridor

‘We are not going away,’ writes Rick Green, of South Fraser Community Rail Group

The following is a guest column written by Rick Green, a representative of the South Fraser Community Rail Group.

The South Fraser Community Rail Group has attempted to present a comprehensive plan to TransLink that would reactivate the Interurban corridor with state-of-the-art, hydrogen-powered passenger rail service between Scott Road SkyTrain Station and the City of Chilliwack.

This is a fiscally and environmentally sound inter-regional service for 1.2 million residents who live south of the Fraser River, for one-tenth the cost of SkyTrain.

To date, we have submitted four detailed letters to all members of the TransLink Council, board and CEO and held a pair of two-hour meetings with planning staff, providing detailed presentations of our proposal.

• RELATED STORY: Service on Interurban rail would be expensive, miss key destinations: TransLink, from June 13.

From the beginning, our ‘ask’ was and is very non-threatening. We want an opportunity to present our complex presentation to the Mayors Council and the board, and to participate through a half-dozen public engagement meetings between Surrey and Chilliwack. Their response? You can have a five-minute delegation.

Of note, UBC professor Patrick Condon will be presenting a five-minute delegation at the June 27 meeting. TransLink staff have rigidly denied us a half-hour presentation opportunity.

Shortly after our campaign start, TransLink initiated open houses and market research, suggesting approval has been given to the Fraser Highway SkyTrain project, which had yet to be voted on or approved.

As for survey results, they held one-sided open houses with only one option to consider, conducted in-house online surveys with only one option offered, conducted telephone market research with only one option offered and only one question asked! Add all of this up and you get a one-sided result.

Seeing that TransLink was ignoring our request to hold public-engagement meetings between Surrey and Chilliwack, we scheduled our own – three of them, and all self-funded, by the way. On the eve of our first meeting, TransLink staff issued a release of an internal Interurban Report stating a wide array of reasons why they have turned down the Interurban in the past.

• RELATED STORY: ‘Rally for Rail’ meetings tout hydrogen-powered passenger train from Surrey to Chilliwack.

Our opinion, and we have proof to support our position, is these reasons are all false and quote old, flawed and discredited reports with flawed assumptions, flawed conclusions and complete misrepresentations of the facts. We have provided them with a complete critique of their statements. It is available on-line at southfrasercommunityrail.ca. We are fully transparent.

Given TransLink’s response, one can only assume they are trying to use their corporate strength to attack and intimidate us, and short-circuit our initiative, one that has broad-based support across both regions.

If TransLink staff are so sure of their facts, why are they afraid of having the members of the TransLink Mayor’s Council hear our story and the laying out of the facts. They would have every opportunity to publicly dispute them and we will have our opportunity to prove TransLink totally wrong.

Our campaign is for an inter-regional transportation solution that is fiscally and environmentally responsible to the whole region. We are not going away.

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