Greater Victoria commuter train set to cost $ 600 million: Government of British Columbia

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The cost of upgrading the Island rail corridor between Victoria and Langford for commuter rail transit service is estimated at $ 595 million, according to a new technical feasibility report released by the provincial government.

An independent study by the consulting firm WSP Canada identified a 16 km long suburban rail span between the east side of Victoria Inner Harbor and Westhills, with additional stations between Admirals, Six Mile and Langford.

Victoria Station, the line’s southern terminal, will be located immediately east of the new Johnson Street Bridge and will benefit from improved connections to local transit bus services.

Improvements would be made to the existing right-of-way, which is currently in poor condition in some areas and does not meet the standard for operating a fast train. Only one route is envisaged for a service in peak direction, because the demand does not justify a two-way service given the length of the route and the higher cost.

Vancouver Island Rail Service

Map of the commuter train route in Greater Victoria. (WSP Canada / Government of British Columbia)

The stations would have a simple design, consisting of a 100-meter-long concrete base platform to accommodate a 100-meter-long train with up to four 25-meter-long passenger cars.

Some stations, such as Victoria Station, could have a double-sided platform. A marshalling yard for temporary storage during off-peak periods would be located near this terminal.

Station amenities include a single covered shelter similar to a bus stop and an ATM, as well as a basic parking lot for some locations.

For the choice of rail technology, aerial electrification is deemed impractical, the researchers proposing diesel engine technologies similar to the double-decker coaches of TransLink’s West Coast Express (WCE), which requires a locomotive, or multiple unit diesel from the Ottawa Trillium line. .

There would only be four regular trains during each peak period, like the WCE.

Of the total estimated cost of this suburban train service in Greater Victoria at $ 595 million, $ 251 million corresponds to the actual construction costs, including $ 26 million for signaling improvements, $ 38.4 million for seven new trains, $ 27.2 million for stations, $ 44.2 million for goods acquired and $ 60 million for the maintenance facility.

Majority of costs are non-construction, including $ 255 million reserve fund, $ 34.6 million for First Nations consultation and accommodation, $ 23.1 million for provincial government overhead and $ 27.7 million for engineering.

Other options identified would modernize the entire Island Island rail corridor from Victoria to Courtenay – a distance of 225 km – for north-south intercity rail service along Vancouver Island. There would be three phases of work, the first phase costing $ 326.5 million and the final phase bringing the total cost to $ 728.8 million, including a $ 180.4 million subdivision route to Port Alberni .

Vancouver Island Rail Service

Assessment of the state of the Island Rail corridor. (WSP Canada / Government of British Columbia)

Vancouver Island Rail Service

Assessment of the state of the Island Rail corridor. (WSP Canada / Government of British Columbia)

Improvements to the full corridor would allow freight and passenger services to return to the railway.

Beyond Greater Victoria, improvements would focus on drainage and culvert problems, washes, slope breaks, vegetation intrusion, track geometry, landslides and track degradation, including need for new and rehabilitated railway bridges. Other stations located between the Capital Region and Courtenay include Shawnigan Lake, Duncan, Ladysmith, Nanaimo, Parksville and Qualicum Beach. The entire corridor is divided into six segments.

“The phasing of improvements allocates the appropriate amount of funding for the appropriate levels of demand. When rail volumes increase beyond the initial phase, capital would be required to implement the intermediate phase. Likewise, as rail traffic volumes increase beyond the intermediate phase, capital would be required to implement the final phase, ”said the report.

“If rail traffic volumes did not increase, no additional funding would be required (excluding maintenance and operation). In addition, the division of the corridor into six different segments allows flexibility for progressive improvements to be implemented where and when there is demand. “

Vancouver Island Rail Service

Current state of the Island rail corridor. (WSP Canada / Government of British Columbia)

The journey time from Victoria to Westhills is 28 minutes, while the full journey from Victoria to Courtenay is three hours and eight minutes.

The study provides no estimate of operating costs, but forecasts for ridership on a Greater Victoria commuter rail service or full intercity rail service on Vancouver Island do not look promising.

The full corridor route assumes three commuter rail trains in each peak direction between Victoria and Westhills, and one commuter rail / intercity train reaching Courtenay.

As a single-track service, in the only peak direction, the Westhills-Victoria route will attract a total of 475 boardings in the morning, an average of 119 passengers for each of the four scheduled trains. When combined with the intercity route from Courtenay, the total number of passengers only increases to 1,049 total boardings – an average of 262 passengers per train.

For the afternoon peak period, ridership begins at 656 passengers from Victoria to Westhills – an average of 164 passengers per train. This increases to 1,505 boardings, an average of 376 passengers per train for the full route to Courtenay.

“The majority of these trips are made from private vehicles, not existing public transport,” says the report. “For the ridership forecasts between Westhills and Victoria stations, the percentage of shuttle service customers who probably abandon the existing bus service is only equal to the percentage of the share of public transportation near the stations for buses running at the same time or roughly at the same time as the proposed commuter train. a service. The rest come from car commuters. “

Vancouver Island Rail Service

Assessment of the state of the Island Rail corridor. (WSP Canada / Government of British Columbia)

A previous study conducted in 2011 by BC Transit and the provincial government examined the feasibility of a more elaborate project – a light rail system (LRT) largely in downtown Victoria to Westhills with 18 stations providing service with a catchment area that covers the main residential areas and employment centers of Victoria.

Although it cost $ 950 million to build, the LRT has a very positive cost-benefit ratio and is expected to attract an average number of passengers of approximately 36,000 boardings per day by 2038. Progress on this project is stalled due to funding and a change in priorities.

In recent years, due to public and commercial interest, attention has focused on commuter and intercity rail service on the Island Rail Corridor, which is owned and operated by the Island Corridor Foundation contract with the Vancouver Island Southern Railway. Passenger services do not currently operate on the corridor.

This study provides a “complete and accurate picture of the rail infrastructure” and will allow weighing options for improving rail transport against other options for improving roads.

The researchers made no recommendations on how to proceed in their study, but note that Rocky Mountaineer has expressed a particular interest in operating a service on Vancouver Island.

Earlier this year, in its budget announcement, the provincial government announced plans to launch a study on commuter rail service between Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, but no timetable has been set.

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