SkyTrain Expo Line fire shuts down service

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skytrain crowding

UPDATE at 12:10 p.m. – SkyTrain’s Expo Line is resuming regular service. Free transit on all services applies for the entire day.

EARLIER:

Much of the SkyTrain Expo Line route is not in service this morning due to an overnight track fire that severely damaged equipment.

Train service is not running between Waterfront and Joyce-Collingwood stations following a fire Thursday night at 11 p.m. The blaze damaged a metre of 20 fiber-optic communication cables just 150 metres east of Main Street-Science World Station on Terminal Avenue.

Shuttle trains are operating between Joyce-Collingwood and Edmonds stations and regular service is only operating between King George and Edmonds stations. Trains traveling on the Millennium Line route are still running from VCC-Clark Station but short turning at Columbia Station.

TransLink says the fire occurred during routine maintenance work when crews performed track-grinding, which helps keep train noise levels to a minimum and the track in good condition. A spark from the grinding ignited a birds nest under the elevated guideway.

The damage is still being repaired and regular service is not expected to be restored until late morning or early afternoon.

“The repair work is difficult due to the location, which is above the centre lane on Terminal Avenue,” said TransLink in a statement. “The cables have to be spliced from the top-down, and workers need to lay on their stomachs to do the repairs.”

Bird netting was not placed in the area as it was never considered as a problem area. Furthermore, the public transit agency said it would be extremely difficult to place netting in the area as it is under the SkyTrain viaducts and above the roadway.

Meanwhile, TransLink has been mobilizing buses, staff and extra resources since last night to deal with the expected morning rush-hour passenger volume.

A bus shuttle between Waterfront and Joyce-Collingwood stations is in place, but TransLink is warning commuters of significant crowds as buses cannot replace the capacity of SkyTrain – approximately 15,000 passengers per hour per direction.

Commuters should seek alternative travel routes if possible until the issues are resolved and regular service resumes. Higher than normal volumes on the Millennium Line and Canada Line should also be anticipated as a result of diverted traffic.

This is the second significant SkyTrain disruption in two days. During the Wednesday morning rush hour, train service was disrupted when a track switch failed in Surrey.

  • UPDATE at 9 a.m. – As a way to show customer appreciation, TransLink is providing FREE transit for all services across Metro Vancouver. This includes buses, SeaBus, West Coast Express and all three SkyTrain lines.
  • UPDATE at 10:45 a.m. – Expo Line trains are now running to Commercial-Broadway Station. However, trains are not going any further west; still no trains to downtown at this time.

Alternative routes and tips for this morning’s commute

  • Passengers leaving from SkyTrain stations in Surrey should consider other transit routes (buses to Richmond, then take the Canada Line) if they need to get downtown.
  • People who must take the Expo line from Surrey should consider transferring at Columbia Station onto the Millennium Line to continue their journey.
  • Avoid Commercial-Broadway Station, one of the busiest SkyTrain stations.
  • From Expo Line, take the #100 bus from 22nd Street Station to Canada Line.
  • Take the #49 bus from Metrotown Station to the Canada Line.
  • Take #41 or #43 buses from Joyce Street to the Canada Line.
  • Take #25 bus from Nanaimo Street to the Canada Line.
  • Try to avoid the major stations and busiest bus routes. Try a bus route heading west along the Hastings corridor to downtown.

Tweet your photos of this morning’s SkyTrain crowds and line-ups to @VancityBuzz.

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