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HomeNewsSurrey SkyTrain switcheroo suggested

Surrey SkyTrain switcheroo suggested

Bob Mackin

The B.C. government is withholding preliminary findings of a panel struck to review the business case for the Surrey LRT project. 

But a February briefing note for then-transit and taxis minister Peter Fassbender says the second phase could use SkyTrain technology instead of the planned light rail. 

The Feb. 9 briefing note, finally released this week to theBreaker via freedom of information, refers to the 11 kilometre Newton to Guildford “L-Line.” 

There would be 11 stations  with an additional potential future station at 84th Avenue. It would require 16 vehicles (13 in operation plus three spares. “An operations and maintenance facility is planned on the west side of King George Boulevard, south of 72nd Avenue. The most aggressive schedule for the project includes procurement in 2018, construction beginning in 2019 and completion in 2022.”

A second, 16 km phase from Surrey to Langley along Fraser Highway could follow five years later.

Ex-SNC-Lavalin executive Burke

“While the Mayors’ Council has proposed LRT technology for this project as well, TransLink is currently evaluating both LRT and SkyTrain technology for the line,” the note said.

The briefing note mentions that the Ministry of Transportation struck a due diligence panel through PartnershipsBC to review the draft business case. 

The panel includes Los Angeles-based ex-Bombardier vice-president Les Elliott, ex-deputy B.C. finance minister Peter Milburn and James Burke, the retired former head of SNC-Lavalin’s Vancouver-based transportation division.

The scandal-plagued Montreal-based engineering and construction giant has been involved in every SkyTrain project, most recently the Evergreen Line, which encountered major tunnelling delays. In 2013, while Burke was in charge in Vancouver, SNC-Lavalin was blacklisted from bidding on World Bank projects for a decade. 

“The business case specifically addresses project rationale, project delivery, procurement, funding and implementation. TransLink is also developing similar business cases for the Broadway Millennium Line extension project in Vancouver and the Pattullo Bridge replacement project in Surrey/New Westminster.”

All the preliminary findings were censored by the B.C. government, using loopholes related to cabinet secrecy, policy advice, intergovernmental relations, and financial interests of a public body. 

The briefing note said PartnershipsBC met Feb. 7 with TransLink and City of Surrey staff “to discuss preliminary themes emerging from the Due Diligence Panel and establish an approach for addressing some of the major considerations.” 

Documents included the speaking notes for Fassbender’s Feb. 10 meeting with Surrey officials, including Mayor Linda Hepner. 

Surrey-Fleetwood’s Fassbender was one of four BC Liberal cabinet members who lost their seats in the May 9 provincial election. 

 The Broadway subway and Surrey light rail were estimated in 2014 to cost $1.98 billion and $2.14 billion, respectively. In March 2016, City of Surrey revised its estimate upward to $2.6 billion because of real estate costs.

TransLink spent $3 million to hire companies for design and cost estimates contracts in early 2015: Steer Davies Gleave and Hatch Mott MacDonald for the Surrey proposal, and Stantec for the Vancouver proposal. 

Also in March 2016, TransLink CFO Cathy McClay admitted rising real estate costs and the declining loonie combined to drive costs up, but she wouldn’t give a hint about the new estimates. TransLink originally wanted to submit business cases to the federal and B.C. governments in the fourth quarter of 2016. 

CSC-2017-71727-Surrey by BobMackin on Scribd