Sunday, March 18, 2007

Skytrain Adventure Mar. 15 2007 - Canon Powershot photos

Skytrain Skybridge from Surrey sideHad an unusual Skytrain ride today. Heading toward Surrey from New Westminster (Columbia Station) the train crossed the switching mechanism just outside the station and came to a grinding halt. Another train coming from Surrey into Columbia Station was also halted further up the tracks toward the Skybridge.
(Photo shows the Skybridge from Scott Road Station. Click pics for larger image. )

After about 20 minutes of no movement, a Skytrain attendant forced the doors apart and boarded the train, hoping to manually drive the train across the bridge when he got an all-clear signal from Skytrain Control. I figured this could be interesting, so I got out my Canon Powershot camera, just in case.

After another 30 minutes of waiting, we saw some passengers on the other train force the doors open and step onto the tracks, crossing over to climb a barbed-wire fence and disappear, possibly into the Skytrain tunnel to Sapperton. Eventually another Skytrain attendant went into the tunnel to look for these guys, but of course the power had to be shut off while the tracks were checked.
Skytrain passengers walk beside tracks to Columbia Station
People on our train were starting to have serious bladder issues after an hour and it was getting hard to breathe, so we opened all the windows. Finally the Skytrain attendants got permission to open the doors on both trains and walk us back along the narrow center guideway, across the tracks and back on to the main platform. Among the passengers were some elderly or disabled; mothers with strollers, and young children.

The attendants mentioned that buses would be coming along to take passengers over Patullo Bridge to Surrey, but nobody knew where to wait for them, and in fact it took almost another hour for the first buses to show up, since there's no regular scheduled bus service over the bridge.

Finally we got a family member to come and pick us up in New Westminster. Others were stranded much longer. Skytrain service was out for 3 hours and the buses were few and far between.

Now don't get me wrong - I think Skytrain is great and it works well about 96% of the time. I know that mechanical problems happen from time to time, and the Skytrain attendants do a great job of doing what they can to keep things safe and orderly.

The problem is that there's no reliable backup system to get passengers to Surrey if there are problems with the trains in New Westminster. There are no scheduled buses to Surrey from Columbia or New West stations, and it's extremely difficult to bring them in on short notice.

Translink shouldn't rely on Skytrain as the only means of getting passengers across the Fraser River. During rush hour, the trains are above capacity from Columbia to Scott Road. I say bring back a regular scheduled frequent bus service from New West to Scott Road Station, to complement the Skytrain service and provide an alternative when these incidents occur!

But that's just my opinion...

More photos (click pics for larger image):

skytrain incident at columbia station new westminsterskytrain columbia stationPassengers walk along centre guideway in Columbia Station tunnel and cross tracks back on to main platform

skytrain new westminster