Report finds $71 million needed to improve SkyTrain system, communication

WATCH: An independent review of the SkyTrain service disruptions in July has come up with 20 recommendations and Translink has accepted all of them. Rumina Daya explains the key improvements.

VANCOUVER – Translink has said it will act on all 20 recommendations from an independent report looking into catastrophic service disruptions on SkyTrain earlier this year.

The recommendations come at a cost of $71 million.

In July there were two major service disruptions of the SkyTrain system, lasting five to six hours. The report found that while the root cause of the delays were not related, the reason for the extended delay period was related.

“The loss of communication between the train command computers in the SkyTrain Control Centre and the computers on the trains caused the trains to stop,” the report stated. “Once the cause of each failure was repaired, it took many hours to manually re-enter each train into the SELTRAC automatic control system.”

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WATCH: During the SkyTrain service disruptions in July, thousands of commuters didn’t know what was going on, prompting some to pry-open the doors out of frustration. Jill Bennett explains how TransLink will address the communication gap.

Due to the lengthy delays, some people started getting out of the train and walking along the guideway. The report found customer communication was limited and the overall customer experience was poor.

Among the recommendations in the report are that Translink could improve SkyTrain efficiency with technical improvements to cut down on guideway intrusions. The review found that the guideway intrusions created the bulk of delays and also create the perception of an aging system.

The report recommends a faster re-start during a breakdown and that there should be no more work on critical systems when the SkyTrain is running.

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Translink should also un-link the system to prevent a chain reaction when something goes wrong.

WATCH: Translink CEO Ian Jarvis on the report:

If there is a loss of communication between the trains and the control centre, it could take up to five hours for service to be up and running on the Expo and Millennium Lines due to the fact that the trains have to be manually re-entered into the system.

More staff also need to be brought on to help passengers when the system goes down. Despite Translink saying they had plenty of staff to deal with the system-wide issues, the report found that was not the case.

The problems for the shutdowns were blamed on both a computer system failure and a power outage for a control panel.

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SkyTrain updated its technology in 1994 but did not include an auto-restart module that was available at the time.

“That component of self-start in SELTRAC is something that we have examined in the past and actually the functionality has improved significantly and so we’re now at a place where we think it makes sense to add it and implement it as we update the entire automated train-control system,” said Jarvis.

READ MORE: SkyTrain fully back online after five hours of commuter chaos

READ MORE: Problem train causes system-wide delays on SkyTrain


The report found one of the biggest issues during the two disruptions was a lack of communication to customers.

Translink needs to not only add more staff, but also improve the PA system, add more signs outside stations and scrolling messages on buses to let people know what is happening.

A single emergency radio band also needs to be established for all Translink operating groups, including the Canada Line, West Coast Express, Coast Mountain Bus Company and Transit Police. Right now, bus drivers, Translink and police use three different channels and messages are not communicated to all groups.

“This was a wake-up call,” said Jarvis. “We’ll make any investments to ensure that we respond more effectively and to say that it doesn’t have an impact on peoples’ view of Translink would be false.”

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Translink Independent Review on Service Disruptions

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