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Columbia Journal logoVolume Nine, Number Three    May 2004    www.columbiajournal.ca

    RAV Line Rejected Again

    CPP News Service

    Despite intense lobbying from a variety of sources, especially BC’s corporate class, the Translink board of directors stood by its original decision and voted last week not to reconsider the controversial Richmond-Airport-Vancouver Skytrain plan.

    “It’s just too expensive and we’re not sure where all the money will come from,” said Vancouver COPE City Councilor Raymond Louie, adding that many board members are worried that the total costs of the proposed line have not been finalized.

    The board voted initially earlier this month to kill the project for the same reasons.

    There is widespread concern, as well as mounting evidence, that the $1.5 billion construction price tag being promoted by the BC Liberal government is unrealistically low. Reports also indicate there is growing concern that the government’s insistence on having the system run by a private for-profit firm, the Bombardier Corporation, will grossly increase operating costs.

    Furthermore, there have been many complaints, reportedly even from some of the project’s supporters, that the provincial government is withholding information about the costs and operating plans for the proposed line and is expecting the board to approve it on this basis.

    “We are being asked to vote on something that clearly has a shortfall of funding, and hoping for a miracle,” said COPE Councilor David Cadman. “Taxpayers wouldn't know the details of the RAV deal until it was signed.”

    The Canadian Union of Public employees, one of the unions working on the lower mainland transit system, also lists many of the above concerns in a comprehensive report to Translink.

    It charged that the provincial government was relying on policies and legislation similar to Bill 75, the Significant Projects Streamlining Act, adopted last year, which gives cabinet ministers and the premier special powers to override municipal or regional decisions on major development projects and exempt them from much of the public reviews and other checks normally associated with such projects.

    Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, a long-time opponent of the RAV project in its current form, told the Georgia Straight the he expected the board to reject the plan.

    He is among many lower mainland mayors who objects to the so-called “public-private partnership,” or “P3,” worked out between Bombardier and the Liberal government. The deal will guarantee the corporation of minimum profit margin, with taxpayers making up the cost if revenues from yearly riders of the line fall below a certain level.

    Other mayors, like New Westminster’s Wayne Wright, see the P3 deal as a gravy train for a corporate elite at taxpayers’ expense and insist it should not go ahead unless the corporation is willing to take the risk along with the revenues.

    Meanwhile, RAV supporters, like Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum and Councilor Marvin Hunt, who are also Liberal supporters, are still hoping to push the Translink board to change their minds.

    The BC Business Council, which represents BC’s large private sector corporate entities says the project should go ahead despite these concerns, since it would likely allow the region to access up to $900 million in federal funds—a position currently shared by Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell.

    Meanwhile, Translink staff is reportedly studying alternative rapid transit plans to the current RAV proposal.

    Coquitlam Mayor John Kingsbury told the media that he is certain some form of rapid transit can be built between Richmond and Vancouver.

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