Is SkyTrain outdated?

Last week Global News trotted out a stinker of a news article talking about how SkyTrain technology is outdated and needs to be replaced. They implied that recent system disruptions are an indication of how outdated and unreliable the technology is, and that we’re tied to Bombardier to supply all of the technology in the future, even though it’s outdated and unreliable.

They couldn’t be further from the truth.

Let’s look at the latest service disruption, which was caused by a damaged power collector on one of the trains. The power collector was damaged by a piece of rail that was stored along the track (standard practice in the rail industry) that shifted due to vibrations of trains passing by. What does a replacement rail have to do with outdated technology? Nothing.

How about the service disruption in May? That one was caused by a bird’s nest catching on fire and damaging communications cables. What does a bird’s nest have to do with outdated technology? Nothing.

How about the service disruption in July 2014? That one was caused by an electrical contractor flipping the wrong switch on an electrical panel. Again, nothing to do with outdated technology.

And as for the assertion that SkyTrain is built on outdated technology? That’s bollocks as well.. Bombardier didn’t stop innovating in 1985, and TransLink has been receiving new SkyTrain rolling stock since then. Bombardier isn’t the only supplier of LIM technology, so the idea that we’re somehow tied to Bombardier is wrong. Bombardier is supplying new SkyTrain technology to Kuala Lumpur and Riyadh, so the idea that Bombardier SkyTrain technology is only used in Vancouver is wrong.

I have to agree with Peter Fassbender when he said that “we have a system that was built to a certain standard” and that “you have to be able to take the next generation of technology and integrate it into an existing system.” Nothing is stopping any of the Chinese or Japanese LIM companies from bidding on new SkyTrain projects. We have a rail standard, we have a platform standard, we have a LIM rail standard, and as long as the manufacturer adheres to those standards, anybody can deliver a train that can run on the existing SkyTrain lines. Nothing is forcing TransLink to use Bombardier.

Are some of the SkyTrain components outdated? Yes, and that’s why TransLink is refurbishing the old Mark I SkyTrains. Is SkyTrain technology outdated? No. Is TransLink locked to Bombardier? No. Is the SkyTrain system a “mistake” or a “boutique system”? No to both.

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