British Columbia

Even TransLink is frustrated by SkyTrain delays this week

When the winter storms were at their worst this week in Metro Vancouver and the snow flurries were coming down heavily, commuters were relatively forgiving of the transit delays.

Expo Line was plagued with ice buildup on the tracts causing delays downtown

Commuters crowd the Commercial-Broadway Station, while the Expo Line was delayed Thursday due to ice buildup on the track. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

When the winter storms were at their worst this week in Metro Vancouver and the snow flurries were coming down heavily, commuters were relatively forgiving of the transit delays — even those that required de-icing doors with hockey sticks. 

Days later, much of the snow is gone but disruptions on public transit aren't, leaving some riders questioning if TransLink is prepared to deal with winter weather. 

"Over the last couple of times, we've seen some very considerable issues on the Expo Line," said TransLink spokesperson Ben Murphy

It started Thursday afternoon just before the evening rush hour commute: the Expo Line SkyTrain was delayed in the downtown area for almost two hours because of ice buildup on the power rails near the Stadium-Chinatown station. 

The SkyTrain was disrupted for about two hours on Thursday. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Extra buses were sent out, but that didn't stop the stations from becoming packed with riders wanting to get home. 

The trains were briefly back online before another ice buildup during the Friday morning commute, this time at Waterfront Station downtown. 

Commuters had to get off their trains at Stadium-Chinatown and get onto shuttle buses to Burrard Station. 

"We understand that is very frustrating for our customers," Murphy said. "We're really frustrated as well by these challenges." 

Crowds waiting to catch a SkyTrain at Commercial-Broadway station in Vancouver were met with long lines due to inclement weather this week. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

He says the problem is ice buildup on the power rails, which then causes the rails to short-circuit so trains can't pass through. The fact these issues are happening during rush hour is particularly unfortunate, he said. 

The de-icer train that normally clears the tracks overnight isn't catching all the ice and so crews are needing to manually inspect the tracks. 

"Clearly, the de-icer train has not been good enough to provide that service," he said.  

"In the past couple of days, for whatever reason, we've seen ice build up in some areas and we now need to really reflect back on why that's happening and how we can prevent it."

A bus that slid off the road onto the sidewalk is pictured stuck after a heavy snowfall in Vancouver this week. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Murphy says TransLink takes full responsibility for issues on the SkyTrain lines and is working on solutions. But when it comes to buses struggling up snow-covered slopes, that's up to the municipalities. 

"The buses are only as good as the roads they are driving on," he said.

"We reach out to municipalities and let them know priority routes for snow clearing."

With files from Eva Uguen-Csenge


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