News Local

TransLink tries damage control with tour 0

By David P. Ball, 24 hours Vancouver

Inside the B.C. Rapid Transit Company control room. (DAVID P. BALL)

Inside the B.C. Rapid Transit Company control room. (DAVID P. BALL)

You have to take a look at the reliability of the system versus the age of the system. For us, the reliability of the system is high. — Fred Cummings, B.C. Rapid Transit Company

With outrage still simmering over recent SkyTrain debacles, TransLink is seeking to assuage users their system is reliable.

On Tuesday, the B.C. Rapid Transit Company invited media to tour its Burnaby headquarters, a day after offering riders free travel in response to the outages. But the tour was overshadowed by lingering questions over system-wide shutdowns July 17 and 21, which saw company representatives repeatedly insisting that rapid transit runs 95% on time despite recent problems.

The company said 40% of the remaining train delays were actually caused by passengers, including holding doors open or dropping objects onto tracks. The remainder were technical problems.

According to one of the company's longest staffers — a man dubbed by one co-worker as the “Godfather of SkyTrain” because he designed, tested, and has maintained the system since 1983 — even dropping free newspapers like 24 hours onto the tracks can trigger automatic sensors that bring trains to a halt.

“It's a great system,” Sun Fang, vice-president of maintenance, said. “We are so proud of it, it has so many unique technologies.”

The tour included rare glimpses inside the control and computer rooms that run the region-wide network, which feature components from the early 1990s, including floppy backup disks. Only seven months from retirement, Fang said the aging systems have stood the test of time: “Age is relative,” he quipped, “I mean, I'm old.”

BCRTC president and general manager Fred Cummings told reporters public confidence was shaken by this summer's incidents, but the company is working to regain trust. However, he refused to answer 24 hours' question about whether reduced public confidence in the system might impact the upcoming transit referendum.

 

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