TransLink reviewing ice removal operations after back-to-back SkyTrain track issues

Click to play video: 'More track issues for SkyTrain' More track issues for SkyTrain
Even after the winter storm had passed, track issues caused more problems for commuters on Thursday night and Friday morning. Nadia Stewart reports – Jan 17, 2020

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.

READ MORE: Black ice and SkyTrain troubles Friday, as Lower Mainland braces for more winter weather

“When trains come in they bring ice and snow with them and compact it, and what we saw was in certain spots, it appears [the tracks] are more susceptible to issues,” he said.
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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.

Click to play video: 'New storm causes more transit chaos' New storm causes more transit chaos
New storm causes more transit chaos – Jan 15, 2020

“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.

READ MORE: Serious delays to downtown SkyTrain service after ‘track issue’ leads to overcrowding

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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.

READ MORE: Does Metro Vancouver need to invest more in snow-removal operations?

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.

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—With files from Nadia Stewart

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