Metro Vancouver's TransLink has hired the former head of Toronto's GO transit system to conduct an external review of the recent system-wide SkyTrain shutdowns.

Gary McNeil says a big part of his review will be looking at TransLink's communications problems during the shutdowns.

"They do have a communications problem with customers, so therefore part of the review and a strong part of the review will be looking at the communications side, as well as the safety side associated with passengers being on an elevated transit system," said McNeil.

The shutdowns, which happened within five days of each other, left thousands of commuters complaining they were given no information after the communications systems failed.

Many passengers left the stalled trains by prying open doors and walking along the tracks, damaging the cars and forcing TransLink to further shut down power to all cars on the tracks.

The first shutdown was caused by a computer failure. The second was caused by an electrician who accidentally shut down a critical electrical panel.

Review initially rejected

Vancouver City Councillor Geoff Meggs was the first to call for an independent review of the incidents last week. His call was backed by Mayor Gregor Robertson.

But Translink's chief operating officer Doug Kelsey said last week an independent review wasn't needed because the causes had already been determined.

On Monday, TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis reversed that position and announced the external review, which will cost $1,200 per day.     

"It's clear that public confidence in our system is at stake here," said Jarvis.

"Self-evacuating on the trains unescorted is a concern. We need to determine if there's ways we can minimize that and future events."

A final report is expected by the end of October, but Jarvis says the transit authority is already making changes to its operations.

“We have learned important lessons over the past 11 days, and as a result of our internal review, we’ve already implemented and started on a number of improvements," said Jarvis.

"These include plans for mobilizing more employees more quickly, better public announcements on SkyTrain,and a plan to provide better customer support at bus bridges.”