The trains on TransLink’s West Coast Express will undergo a $21 million retrofit to extend their lifespan and reduce their emissions.
This is a $21 million project, with the federal government providing $10.2 million, the provincial government with $9.2 million, and TransLink with $1.5 million.
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The engines on six of the seven locomotives will be refurbished to extend their lifespan by 15 years, and the head end power units that provide heat and lighting to the passenger cars will be replaced to reduce emissions, improve energy efficiency, and allow the future operation of longer trains.
The locomotives will be refurbished one at a time to ensure there is no disruption in service. One additional locomotive will also be acquired.
“Today’s announcement is about investing in the future. With this new funding, we’ll be able to refurbish the engines on our West Coast Express locomotives that are reaching the end of their lifespan while also acquiring an additional locomotive,” said Gigi Chen-Kuo, the interim CEO of TransLink, during today’s press conference.
“These upgrades mean that our customers can consistently get home on time, after a long day of work or school. These upgrades mean we can continue to deliver more reliable, greener service to our customers for years to come. Most importantly, these upgrades mean that the residents of Mission, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, and the Tri-Cities will continue to have this premium alternative to driving for their daily commutes.”
The public transit authority is exploring other upgrades to the commuter rail service, specifically improving the maintenance and passenger facilities of the commuter rail service, such as the stations.
During the recent provincial election campaign, the BC NDP included the platform commitment of an expansion of West Coast Express. Prior to the election, The provincial government also launched a study of extending commuter rail services into the Fraser Valley.
The West Coast Express first launched in 1995 on tracks owned and leased from Canadian Pacific. Despite the success of this commuter rail service over the past 25 years, the West Coast Express has seen little service expansion and improvements. Due to the constraints of the lease, which prioritizes the railway’s freight business, TransLink can only operate five trains in the peak direction during weekdays.
During normalcy, the West Coast Express saw approximately 10,000 boardings each weekday. Each one-way trip along the 69-km-long, eight-station route between downtown Vancouver and Mission takes about 75 minutes in optimal conditions.
Up until 2016, TransLink operated the West Coast Express TrainBus, which offered long-haul bus trips replicating the train route outside of the commuter rail service’s hours. The service was cancelled after the Millennium Line Evergreen Extension opened and established new bus connections to SkyTrain.