The City of Surrey, tourist trams, and the Fraser Valley Heritage Rail Society: An overview
Back in August fellow Civic Surrey blogger Kenneth Souder posted about the Fraser Valley Heritage Rail Society’s (FVHRS) move from Sullivan Park to Cloverdale. The FVHRS’s goal is to run a weekend tourist tram service during the summer along the Surrey section of the former Interurban Line which is now run by Southern Rail. The society is currently restoring a tram from the old BC Electric Interurban System. The original plan was to get this service up and running in time for the 2010 Olympic games. They did not make that first target. The FVHRS is supported in part by the City of Surrey. I was wondering just how much that support actually was, so I put in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request with the City of Surrey to find out.
My request stemmed out of the fact that service was supposed to have started in 2010, but I really haven’t heard much about when or if service would be started in the future. The FOI revealed that the City of Surrey has given in cash and benefits $4.8 million to the FVHRS since 2003. In addition to the $4.8 million, the City is granting the FHVRS $112,000 per year to cover the lease on the City owned land that the FVHRS’s new Cloverdale car barn is sited on. The City is also covering half the utility fees. The City has secured the running rights with Southern Rail to operate the tourist interurban tram between mid-May thru mid-October. The reality is that the tourist tram project is really a joint-venture between the FHVRS and the City of Surrey. The only thing that is missing now is the actual service.
I was at an event last weekend called “Going Electric” which was hosted by the Burnaby Village Museum. I gave a talk on active and future public transit streetcar systems, but I also got to hear a progress report from the FVHRS. The FVHRS is a volunteer organization, so it’s really not surprising that they didn’t meet their first target. After hearing their presentation, I found out that the new goal is to start service next summer and I think they might actually reach that goal. There is no denying that the FVHRS has done a tremendous amount of work restoring an interurban tram and preserving a piece of Surrey’s history, but at some point we need to see the promised tram service up and running.
I think that one of the goals of Surrey, in supporting the FVHRS, is to inspire people to demand rail-based public transit once they see the interurban tourist tram in service. Though I have to wonder, if the City of Surrey can invest close to $5 million in Cloverdale for a tourist tram, could they not also setup a tourist tram in Whalley that could operate 7-days a week? Now that would truly inspire people.