SURREY – With two major SkyTrain breakdowns in less than a week, Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts is calling on the province to delegate more governance powers to the Mayors’ Council.
Speaking the day after a TransLink employee accidentally shut down the Expo and Millennium lines for five hours, Watts said it was time for the mayors to be let in to see what’s going on with the operational side of things at TransLink.
"This is why there needs to be a critical analysis of the entire system. We need to get that from the operators of the system," she said. "That means getting that information to us to see how things can be mitigated, to have TransLink report out what that looks like."
Watts’ comments come after two separate incidents in just five days which led to near system-wide shut downs of the SkyTrain system, resulting in thousands of commuters being stranded at stations and midline in trains. In both instances, commuters ended up prying the train doors open and walking along the lines to the closest station.
Despite all of TransLink’s buses being brought in to help alleviate some of the pressure in both cases, many riders took to social media complaining about the lack of service and available information during the outage.
While Thursday’s incident was found to have been a computer failure, Monday’s shut down was the result of a company electrician accidentally tripping the breaker for the SkyTrain control centre. The electrician has since been suspended and TransLink is offering free transit on B.C. Day as an apology, which many seem unsatisfied with.
Doug Kelsey, chief operating officer for TransLink said Tuesday that it would be a waste of taxpayers’ money to have a public inquiry into the matter as it was found to be simple human error.
"We don’t need an independent body to tell us what the problem is, we embed those into our learnings," he said at a press conference.
"We get as many staff, all hands on deck to deal with the problem and will continue to triage."
Kelsey went on to say staff did all they could during the failures, but Watts said what that looks like and what other contingencies could be brought in need to be looked at.
"Unfortunately there isn’t a float through of information, all of that goes to the other board in place and that’s a challenge because we’re (mayors) dealing with the electorate, we’re dealing with the residents of the region," she said.
Currently, the Mayors’ Council only has the power to decide on funding measures for TransLink, without having any say or access to how it’s actually operated.
"The challenge is that the Mayors’ Council has one function – to pay for that system. It’s something that we’ve repeatedly asked several ministers to address that issue," said Watts.
"I think with this latest shutdown that we need to be involved. There’s no doubt about it in my mind."
Asked if the recent SkyTrain failures move the transit debate more in favour of Light Rapid Transit (LRT) for Surrey, Watts said it was just a matter of having adequate safety measures for any form of public transit.
"There’s different things with different systems, I think it’s about making sure we have measures in place to support different systems sufficiently," she said, but noted that if there was an incident on LRT it would be much easier to get people off and onto buses.
"I think that there can be different issues with each piece of technology, if you have LRT at grade it allows people to get off and catch a bus."
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