TransLink says it will be reviewing its ice removal procedures on SkyTrain tracks after back-to-back service disruptions brought busy commutes to a halt this week.
Expo Line trains were forced to single-track or turn around altogether from downtown Vancouver Thursday evening and Friday morning, leading to overcrowded platforms and frustrated travellers.
Spokesperson Ben Murphy said ice build-up on the power rails was the source of the problem, which caused electrical issues. In Friday’s case, the outage lasted for several hours.
Murphy said de-icing trains are used overnight to help remove the build-up, similar to how grinding cars are run throughout the year to keep the tracks smooth.
While the method “normally works,” he said the past two days have forced the transit authority to take another look at whether their de-icing program can be improved.
“Obviously we don’t want this to be a recurring issue for several days,” he said.
“Our priority right now is to figure out how we can remove that ice and try and stop that problem from happening over and over, because it is really really frustrating for people who are caught up.”
Murphy said crews are now being deployed to identify problem areas.
The ice build-up was the latest issue to plague TransLink this week as heavy snow pounded Metro Vancouver for days on end.
SkyTrain service has generally been slower than usual, with most trains being operated manually by staff due to the weather.
The snow and ice also prevented train doors from closing completely, bringing the flurries right inside the cars.
The track issues were not confined to the downtown core, either. Stations in Surrey were closed Wednesday morning, while the Canada Line also saw a brief shutdown that day.
The Expo Line — which is the oldest line in the SkyTrain system — saw the majority of the issues, however, prompting questions of whether the tracks need replacing.
Murphy says TransLink isn’t thinking that drastically yet, only promising a review is coming soon.
“We’re going to have to go and reflect on this past week, and the past couple of days in particular, and look at how we can resolve these issues,” he said.
Murphy added while bus service was also impacted by the weather, TransLink has confidence in its fleet and will be having conversations with municipalities on ensuring transit routes are cleared.
—With files from Nadia Stewart