South Fraser Community RAIL

An environmentally friendly hydrogen powered passenger train connecting the Pattullo Bridge in Surrey to Chilliwack

The Province: Group proposes task force, reactivated interurban line for South of Fraser

“South Fraser Community Rail would like to see hydrogen-powered passenger rail cars running from Chilliwack to Surrey.” – The Province

Full Text:

An advocacy group that includes a former premier and a former mayor is pushing for a provincially backed task force to come up with ideas to improve transportation options for South of the Fraser.

One project at the top of the group’s list is reopening the interurban rail line between Chilliwack and Surrey to passenger service, using hydrogen-powered rail cars.
“With the explosion of growth up in the Fraser Valley, it just adds more cars onto the road, it adds more problems,” said Rick Green, who was mayor of the Township of Langley from 2008-2011 and is a founding member of South Fraser Community Rail. “We believe an answer to that is to open up the interurban corridor with hydrogen rail. There may be other ideas people come forward with.”

Green said the plans currently laid out by TransLink — including SkyTrain between Surrey and Langley — don’t address the needs of communities in the South of Fraser region.

South Fraser Community Rail, which counts former Social Credit premier Bill Vander Zalm among its members, is making presentations to local governments and community groups — the City of Chilliwack and business associations in Newton, most recently — and plans to appear before the Fraser Valley Regional District and TransLink’s Mayors Council and board of directors soon to make its case.

Green said the first priority is to convince the B.C. government to strike a “community-led” task force made up of representatives from each municipal council South of the Fraser, an MLA, an MP and a handful of community members.
The task force would hold public meetings where people could make presentations and give their opinions and ideas, and then report to the province, TransLink and regional district with the results.
“We’re going after what’s necessary to bring this about, which is the political will and the creation of this task force,” Green said, noting that’s what differentiates his group from the others that have tried to revive the interurban line for years.
The 99-kilometre rail route between Chilliwack and Surrey was used for passenger trains until 1950, when it became a freight line. The rails and vehicles were sold to the B.C. Hydro freight division in 1988. Hydro is no longer in the rail business, and there is a licence for the Southern Railway of B.C. and a statutory right-of-way for CP Rail to use the corridor.
However, there are passenger running rights in the corridor, the preservation of which B.C. Hydro said, in a written statement, it supports.
“B.C. Hydro will discuss the future use of the corridor for transit purposes should the province and/or TransLink decide to pursue this option,” the statement said.
Green believes it would be simple and relatively inexpensive to reactivate the route and serve about 1.2 million people in five municipalities.
The group has estimated that rail from Chilliwack to Surrey would cost about $1.2 billion, or $12.5-million-per-kilometre. Green said the price tag could creep higher depending on a number of factors, but it includes everything from cars to real estate for park-and-rides and stations.
“We absolutely believe with all the numbers that we’ve crunched … that this would be a very, very successful venture,” Green said.
No one from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure was available for comment, but in an emailed statement the ministry said it’s encouraging to hear ideas from people enthusiastic about transportation infrastructure.
However, it’s focused on delivering projects in the 10-year regional transportation plan and any future investment decision would require co-operation and cost-sharing from all levels of government.
In an emailed statement, TransLink said that while it supports the principle of preserving interurban rail corridors for future passenger use, it’s too early to understand the viability of the proposed service, and it’s not part of the 10-year plan.
“TransLink is committed to delivering on the mayors’ 10-year vision commitments on an immediate short-term,” the statement read. “TransLink is now in the process of updating the 30-year regional transportation strategy, that will include examining future commuter rail opportunities with inter-regional connections.”

Jennifer Saltman for The Province

Making the pitch for light passenger rail out to Chilliwack

Former Langley Township mayor urges Chilliwack to support community-led task force

Article in the Chilliwack Progress:

Community rail proponent Rick Green appeared as a delegation before Chilliwack council to make a pitch for hydrogen-powered light rail from Surrey to Chilliwack.

“We’re leading the charge for South Fraser Community Rail, and calling it The Plan,” said Green, a former mayor of Langley Township. “It’s the smart way to solve the south of Fraser transportation and transit deficit.”

Green has made his pitch before in presentations for B.C. Premier John Horgan and the TransLink Board, and said the idea is backed by former premier Bill Vander Zalm.

Essentially, the plan is to reactivate the old “interurban corridor” using existing track, for emissions-free passenger rail service, powered by Canadian hydrogen fuel cell technology.

It would be cost-effective, “at less than eight per cent of the cost per kilometre of the Surrey to Langley LRT,” Green noted.

The old line was “protected” by a previous government for passenger use at “no cost for its use” due to a right-of-way owned by the people of B.C.

The estimated cost for the South Fraser community rail is $12.5 million per kilometre “all in.”

It would see a “spine” established as the main rail line, and a “rib” or road network feeding it by bus from the Pattullo Bridge and Chilliwack, “in the same way as the Skytrain,” Green offered.

The rail line would be “building economic growth,” while serving more than a million residents in 16 cities and communities, as well as 14 post-secondary institutions, the Abbotsford Airport, tourism and agri-tourism.

The Fraser Valley airshed “gets exponentially worse every year,” but the rail line would reduce emissions.
“One train would remove 177 cars from Highway 1,” Green told council.
“Development is a funny thing. We would all like to go back to the way it was but that isn’t going to happen,” Green said. “The Fraser Valley is growing exponentially and we have to manage it so we are able to live with a good quality of life.”

Green took issue with the support given from Chilliwack politicians for highway expansion as a solution to daily gridlock.
“Widening Highway 1, really?” he said. “Let’s be honest with residents.”
He said that would mean that widening a few kilometres at a time, which would take decades to achieve, and growth would outpace the expansion.

So what makes the community rail idea so attractive right now? he asked.
“The renewal of passenger rights in the Pratt-Livingston corridor, which is the section that goes through the two Langleys,” he said. “And the introduction of Alstom hydrogen technology, a B.C. invention and Canadian manufactured propulsion system from Missisauga.”
Green said the technology has been successfully operating in Germany for the past two years.
Green concluded with “the ask” for council support to establish a community-led and provincially endorsed task force to push the community rail proposal forward.

Coun. Chris Kloot thanked Green for the presentation. He called it a “no-brainer” and noted if the political will was there, the proposal “will happen.”
“I think it’s a project that certainly needs to happen sooner rather than later,” Kloot said.

In the end city council voted unanimously to send a letter to the Fraser Valley Regional District asking that South Fraser Community Rail committee reps be given an opportunity to make the presentation to the FVRD board.

More details on the plan for South Fraser Community Rail.

Jennifer Feinberg for the Chilliwack Progress

Transit advocates call for hydrogen trains on century-old Fraser Valley rail corridor

Translink in early stages of examining whether interurban rails could be used for public transit.

Article in CBC News:

As a long freight train thunders past Rick Green along the Langley Bypass, he can’t help but wonder why the century-old tracks aren’t being used to transport commuters.
“How come this hasn’t happened?” asks Green, who is the township’s former mayor. “If you don’t have proper transportation, you’ve got nothing.”
While Vancouver and Surrey move ahead on major SkyTrain projects, Green says there’s a notable absence of rapid public transit options between communities in the Fraser Valley.

But he says there’s an affordable solution to the problem.

Green is part of a group called South Fraser Community Rail, and members are actively campaigning TransLink and municipalities across the region to get onboard a proposed hydrogen-powered train transit project that would connect Surrey all the way to Chilliwack — utilizing land that’s already owned by B.C. taxpayers.

Interurban rails

A network of interurban rails connect Surrey all the way to Chilliwack. The Fraser Valley corridor is more than a century old, and was even used for passenger travel until the 1950s, when it reverted to freight-use only.
Freight rights are currently owned by both Southern Railway of B.C. and Canadian Pacific Railways.
But the province has rights to the land through its Crown corporation, B.C. Hydro, and can reintroduce passenger service to the corridor in the future, according to a sales agreement from 1988.

“The freight companies have to provide adequate time for use of passenger [service],” said Green, referring to a master agreement between C.P. Rail and B.C. Hydro.
In a statement to CBC News, TransLink said it’s in the early stages of assessing how these interurban rail corridors could be used for public transit.

Hydrogen-powered train

While no plans are set in stone, the South Fraser Community Rail is strongly advocating for a hydrogen-powered train to eventually carry commuters along the 99-kilometre stretch between Surrey and Chilliwack.
Hydrogen trains are currently operating in Germany. They run on hydrogen fuel cells and are said to only emit a mix of water and steam.

Since the land is already available, the group says the project could be done for $12.5 million per kilometre. By comparison, the Broadway SkyTrain extension will cost up to $500 million per kilometre.
“This whole line, 99 kilometres, could be re-activated with a state-of-the-art hydrogen rail, for about $1.5 billion,” said Green. The proposed line would have 12 major stops, including Newton, Langley, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack.
The group says it has a meeting with TransLink’s planning committee in April.

The transit authority did not confirm that meeting, but said it welcomes the group to make a presentation to the Mayor’s Council during the public delegation portion of its next session.
TransLink says its first priority is to follow through on the Mayors’ 10-Year Vision. It’s currently in the process of updating a long-term transportation strategy that will incorporate potential uses of interurban rails.
Public consultations will begin this summer.

Jon Hernandez for CBC News

Former Langley Mayor: Wider Highway 1 Wont Fix Traffic Problem

Rick Green, Mayor of Township of Langley 2008-2011

In response to The Progress article titled “Highway 1 widening in Chilliwack”:

It is a popular political notion that Highway 1 widening is overdue, and that it will go a long way to solving our traffic problem.

The first part of that is true.

I’ve had to deal with this issue myself 8 years ago as the Mayor of Langley, and believe it is long past due that politicians start being honest with residents on this. The Highway must be widened, of course, but to what? At what cost? Are 3 lanes each way going to be enough? Over what time period can we reasonably expect it to be completed?

These are questions we should answer with facts.

The reality is that, as of right now, no additional Hwy 1 widening has been approved. IF or when it is, widening will occur at a rate of X number of kms at a time, falling within given annual Federal, Provincial and/or Municipal budget cycles.

What this means is that highway widening will only occur at a rate of an affordable length every year, IF it is budgeted for, and budgeted for again, on an annual basis by subsequent Federal, Provincial and Municipal governments.

As an example, look at the Hwy 1 widening currently underway in Langley, from 202nd to 216th. This portion is 4 kms long, includes a new interchange at 216th, and is costing taxpayers $59 million. (Government of Canada $22.3 Million, BC Govt. $22.3 million and the Township of Langley $14.3 Million.) This portion had been under study since before I was elected in 2008. Construction began in 2017, and is due to complete in the fall of 2019.

While we should be conservative in applying these numbers to Chilliwack, there are several similarities involved, such as the need to widen or add overpasses. The distance from Langley to Chilliwack is about 55 kms, and taking those 2018 numbers into account, a ballpark calculation suggests that the widening cost to Chilliwack could easily top $1 Billion.

If we get the follow-through and commitments from subsequent BC Governments, cost-sharing approvals from the Federal Government, assistance from Municipal Governments (if they have any add ons), and assume a construction rate of 4 kms every 2 years, if we began today it would be completed in 2047!

The question must be asked, 28 years from now, how much help will an extra lane be? The reality of exponential growth and increased traffic over that 28 years would outstrip the benefit of the extra lanes by three times.

In other words, you will be three times worse off by the time it is finished than we are today. It just doesn’t work!

So, politicians waving the flag of highway widening are being, with all due respect, disingenuous!

The real solution is two-fold:

  1. Support the reactivation of the Interurban Corridor with state-of-art Hydrogen Community Passenger Rail that can be in place and running in short order from Chilliwack to the Pattullo Bridge, at no-cost for the use of the corridor. This will provide community transit service 7 days a week, to 16 communities, 14 Post Secondary Institutions, the Abbotsford International Airport, and connect the valley region to our public transportation system out to North Vancouver. This is an opportunity to remove a significant number of cars from Hwy 1, helping reduce congestion, while protecting our environment and the Fraser Valley Airshed.
  2. Fight for completion of the widening of Highway 1, but understand that it will take a considerable amount of time. I don’t care what politicians tell you. Do not be fooled or sold a bill of goods by politicians promising that the widening of Highway 1 will solve your problems or that it will happen soon.

This is not a difficult decision. Learn more about what is available to you as a resident of Chilliwack here on our website,

What is necessary? As a citizen, put the pressure on your City Council and Regional District to demand that this Community Rail proposal for the Interurban Corridor be looked at.

We are working to establish a provincially-endorsed, community-led task force to solicit support for this initiative, which I believe represents an incredibly valuable opportunity to the public.

Best regards,

Rick Green

Former Mayor Township of Langley 2008 – 2011
The South Fraser Community Rail Campaign Committee

Metro Vancouver’s old interurban line could be revived as hydrogen-powered commuter rail system

“We’re going to be actively working on this. Perhaps there will be a benefit to North Delta with its proximity to the old urban line. It would be a great benefit to Fraser Valley communities.”

Bill Vander Zalm, former Premier of BC

Full Article printed in the Delta Optimist:

Letter: Former Langley Mayor Endorses South Fraser Community Rail

Rick Green, Mayor of Township of Langley 2008-2011

When the BC Government sold off the B.C. Hydro Freight Division in 1988, they had the foresight to protect the rail corridor for future passenger use. The passenger rights to this line, from Pattullo Bridge to Chilliwack, are still legally retained for the citizens of B.C. 

A 99 km state-of-the-art Community Rail Passenger Service will contribute significantly to economic growth, creation of jobs, serve 1.2 million citizens, sixteen cities and communities, major industrial parks, the Abbotsford International Airport (1,000,000 projected passengers in 2019), agritourism, and fourteen post-secondary institution campuses.

As the Mayor of the Township of Langley, I served on the Mayor’s Translink Council, and am well aware of the deep internal biases and parochial arguments that have been made by local politicians, past and present, who have chosen to ignore common sense and value-for-money arguments.

To the people of the Fraser Valley: It is long past time that we think of the value to the region, and improvement to the quality of life for everyone residing South of the Fraser, that a Community Rail service will provide. I am proud to announce and affirm my ongoing support of the newly launched public campaign for the South Fraser Community Rail.

The Interurban Corridor

The Fraser Highway Skytrain proposal that is now being irresponsibly rushed through by newly elected Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, under the guise of better serving the region, is frankly a disguise for land speculation at residents’ (your) expense. This project does absolutely nothing for our region, or for the municipalities that fall beyond Surrey.

The South Fraser Community Rail website provides, in detail, the vision and history of the renewal of passenger rights on the contentious Pratt Livingston Corridor, a cost comparison to other options being considered, engineering reports, and an extensive benefit analysis that strongly favors the South of Fraser Community Rail Corridor servicing the entire Fraser Valley Region.

Stay tuned!

Rick Green

Mayor of the Township of Langley 2008–2011

UBC prof and students study passenger rail through Langley

Article in the Langley Advance Times:

People used to catch the British Columbia Electric Railway car in Langley and ride the trains all the way into Vancouver.

The railway, called the Interurban, ran from 1890 to 1958 between Chilliwack and Vancouver.
The South Fraser Community Rail group wants politicians to bring back passenger rail on the line. which is still in place and used by freight trains.
University of British Columbia professor Patrick Condon is trying to convince politicians and policy makers of the possibilities.

“The old interurban rail line is there for the taking – linking all our great Fraser Valley communities and campuses, from Surrey to Chilliwack,” he said.
“We propose that we activate it, with leading-edge technology – as used in Europe and other parts of the world – for a fraction of the cost and ecological burden of other options.”

Condon, along with 17 master-degree students in urban design, toured Langley City and Township and other neighbouring communities to talk about transportation and related issues such as housing and employment.
“This is only the start of a very intensive campaign for common sense for those charged with managing our tax dollars,” he said.

The population of the Fraser Valley is forecast to increase by 1.5 million people by 2060.

Condon’s study calls for a state-of-the-art passenger rail using modern technology that is already operating in Europe and abroad.

The final report is expected in spring 2019.


The Canadian Transportation Agency, which is responsible for rail, will launch an investigation into possible rail service issues in the Vancouver area.
Scott Streiner, chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency, said the plans is to gather information from shippers and others. That will include whether there is discriminatory treatment of certain commodities, how freight rail permits and/or embargoes are being used, and whether railway companies operating in the Vancouver area are fulfilling their service obligations.

Consultation starts with a public hearing on Jan. 29 and 30 in Vancouver.

“The public hearing will give parties an opportunity to submit evidence, as the CTA considers whether railway companies operating in the Vancouver area are fulfilling their service obligations and, if aren’t, what remedies should be ordered,” Streiner said. “We’ll get the investigation done as quickly as possible, but we’ll take the time required to gather all the relevant facts.”

People can learn more about the federal agency at