Originally Posted by geoff's two cents
I'd be curious to see the specs on having a new, grade-separated rail ROW go via King George through Surrey Central, and via the Stormont connector and Highway 1 to Vancouver.
Much of this route, even within Surrey itself, remains for the most part obstruction-free, and planning for a tunnelled downtown Surrey portion could occur in conjunction with the proposed KGB subway/skytrain between Guildford and Newton, Surrey Central station upgrades, as well as the planned Patullo bridge replacement and long-discussed Stormont connection to Highway 1.
Any increase in distance would be offset by the higher speeds made possible by avoiding the circuitous White Rock route. Such a plan would also go some way toward taking seriously Surrey's long-term emergence as an important center in its own right. Finally, it would give Surrey and Valley travellers to Seattle and Portland a serious alternative to their SOVs and thereby help boost Canada-side ridership on the line.
Obviously this would be a long-term plan - Even Surrey Centre still feels too much like a suburb of Vancouver to warrant this kind of investment at present. Having a long-term plan in place, however, would at least ensure that KGB construction doesn't impinge on a future rail ROW, and might even help attract investment dollars to Surrey's emerging city center.
I admit to being inspired by the time I spent in Ontario, where just about any urban center of significance has at least an upgradeable rail ROW, or even several. Wellington, New Zealand, where I am at present, also has a very developed intercity rail hub. IMO, planning along these lines is still possible along the KGB corridor.
I think the hill up King George from the river would be wayyyyyyy to steep for HSR. To get the preferred grade you would end up having to tunnel under Surrey City Center. Skytrain makes it up the hill because Skytrain can do that (that is why we use it instead of conventional metro). The trains go around Delta because it's flat. So going around on flat land makes up time for having to climb grades. It might seem like it is longer, but travelling around Delta for a train probably takes less time than travelling through Surrey on the BCER (hence why SYR uses the tracks and not anyone else).
The main things slowing the trains down is the infrastructure. The rail bridge across the Fraser is over 100 years old, and the trestle across Mud bay can't be much newer.
Right before the Olympics I raced the Royal Hudson (a freakin' steam train) from Crescent Beach to Downtown (in my car) and it beat me to the Fraser River (I could see the steam upriver near the docks when I was crossing the AFB). I only beat it to Broadway by less than 10 minutes.
While the Amtrak goes pretty slow, when I lived in White Rock, at night (and even during the day) the freight trains would tear past the pier area at around 50-60km/h. They go slower in the summer as people illegally cross the tracks to get to the beach (because there are no provided crossings). I have actually seen people stand on the tracks posing for pictures as the freight train is barrowling down on them, with its emergency horns blasting. If proper infrastructure was set up around White Rock, trains could pass through there pretty fast, but if they stopped at the station there would be no need anyway.
I've been at Braid and see freight trains rip through the crossing there before (the Amtrak makes good speed too). Remove that crossing (with the united overpass) and trains could go faster.
The trains would make it from Pacific Central to White Rock in about an hour and 10 minutes or so (+-15 minutes). That's only 20 to 30 minutes longer than driving. Replace the 2 bridges, remove some level crossings, and double some of the track, and the current Amtrak train could probably shave 30 minutes or more off its trip without a new ROW being built.
There is a reason the track is where it is. When it was built there was nothing in the area, the engineers could have built anywhere. Building along white rock even required extensive blasting and excavation. But they chose that route because even though it zig zags a bit, it was much faster for the trains to build with as little grade as possible than a more direct, hilly route.
King Goerge blvd climbs and descends several significant hills.