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Progress stalls on Surrey/Langley SkyTrain extension due to COVID-19’s financial hit

Click to play video: 'TransLink executives say COVID-19 pandemic could delay Langley SkyTrain extension' TransLink executives say COVID-19 pandemic could delay Langley SkyTrain extension
TransLink executives say COVID-19 pandemic could delay Langley SkyTrain extension – May 28, 2020

The major financial hit from the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted TransLink to rethink the Surrey/Langley SkyTrain extension.

At its meeting on Thursday, the mayors’ council on regional transportation heard that several issues need to be addressed before work can continue.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: TransLink warns of further cuts if no government financial help received

The council heard during its April 23 meeting that the transit agency is projecting a shortfall of $570 million to $680 million this year because of a massive drop in ridership.

Fare collection and front-door boarding is set to resume on Monday, as the number of COVID-19 cases in B.C. continue to decrease.

Geoff Cross, TransLink’s vice-president of planning and policy, said delivering an update on the second phase of the investment plan by July is no longer feasible because projecting future revenues is so uncertain.

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Click to play video: 'Additional cleaning and physical distancing measures coming to Metro Vancouver transit' Additional cleaning and physical distancing measures coming to Metro Vancouver transit
Additional cleaning and physical distancing measures coming to Metro Vancouver transit – May 21, 2020

The second phase involves extending SkyTrain from Surrey’s Fleetwood neighbourhood out to Langley, at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion. It was projected to be up and running by 2025.

TransLink is now working with the province to review how much funding each contributes to the project.

“We are in a reasonable position now to be able to weather a few more months of this, but we do need urgent clarity on where senior government will be so that you can start making some difficult decisions,” Cross told the council.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond, meanwhile, told the council that passengers have started to return. As of May 24, ridership was at about 20 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

READ MORE: TransLink to limit seating on buses to curb spread of coronavirus

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On the up side, Cross said the Surrey/Langley extension’s business case is “still sound.”

Global News has reached out to both the Surrey and Langley municipalities for comment.

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