SkyTrain Derails In Surrey – Is This The Shape Of Things To Come?

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TransLink was very lucky that this accident happened at the end of the line in Surrey, with an apparently empty train. A brake caliper fell onto the track and was large enough to derail the next train that passed by. Here lies the Achilles heel of automatic transit systems, they can’t see obstructions on the track and proceed to hit them, sometimes with disastrous results.

TransLink is now operating a fleet of 25 year old vehicles and as with most older transit vehicles, if preventive maintenance is not done more frequently, this sort of thing will happen and with increasing regularity. This should be a wake up call for TransLink, that yes, SkyTrain is railway and derailments do happen and the older fleet of Mk.1 cars will need a more intensive maintenance schedule, which of course will raise operating costs and that is something the cash strapped TransLink doesn’t want .

And now a final niggle at TransLink, if this was LRT and if there was a driver, a piece of scrap metal large enough to derail a SkyTrain car, would have probably have been seen by the driver, who would have stopped the tram, preventing a derailment.

TransLink investigates SkyTrain derailment

By Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver Sun

May 28, 2010 3:02 PM

http://www.vancouversun.com/TransLink+investigates+SkyTrain+derailment/3084244/story.html

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16 Responses to “SkyTrain Derails In Surrey – Is This The Shape Of Things To Come?”

  1. Justin Bernard Says:

    I thought the Skytran system had pressure plates along the line to stop the system if there is objects/people on the guideway?

    Zweisystem replies: The pressure plates are only at stations and only alert the control centre of an unauthorized egress onto the tracks; they do not automatically stop the train. The rest of the line has none. I believe the incident happened at a switch, where a sudden jerk would dislodge broken equipment.
    LRT/trams of course by their very nature, operate in an environment where minor obstructions are more common than not and are designed to cope with such problems.

    I am led to wonder if the obstruction didn’t lodge under the LIM, forcing the truck – up, thus derailing the vehicle. Some years ago, during a severe snow storm, accumulated snow under the LIM, derailed an empty train, during non-revenue hours.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    At least it didn’t come crashing down… Oh look it’s raining sky trains…

    Zweisystem replies: I doubt that that will happen, but……………

  3. BCPhil Says:

    There is no way to say one way or another that if there was a driver on the train that he would have noticed a small piece of metal on the tracks, especially if it was someplace where the trains are travelling at 80km/h.

    There have been plenty of driver operated systems in the world where a driver controlled train has hit much larger, easier to see objects, like other trains.

    This is the first derailment in the system ever, and it took 25 years to happen. Link in Seattle had a derailment after just a few months of being opened, and MAX in Portland has had several, including at least one incident where a MAX train hit a bus. In both those systems drivers were unable to keep the train from derailing. SF MUNI has had multiple train on train collisions in the past few years.

    In fact, in the Seattle incident, it’s been concluded that the LINK driver ran a signal and is at fault for the accident. So far our automated system has been far less faulty than any human operated system.

    http://seattletransitblog.com/2009/12/22/light-rail-derailment-blamed-on-operator-error/

    Zweisystem replies: SkyTrain has been involved in several incidents, including a collision with a crane, which caused some injuries to passengers. An automatic system runs just fine, but…..until something unplanned happens. SkyTrain has derailed before, but in the yard and human error was at fault.

    This may well be the first derailment in revenue service, but I have been told that some of the suicides have actually derailed the train.

    But what I was trying to say is that the first tranche of MK.1 cars are getting old and require a higher standard of maintenance, if not, then more problems will arise.

  4. Richard Says:

    I’ve heard that even before this, TL was considering replacing the MK 1 cars with new cars as this would likely save money due to decreased maintenance costs.

    Zweisystem replies: Yes, there would be short term savings by converting to MK.2 cars, until the first tranche of Mk.2 start getting near their half-life, but there is absolutely no guarantee that Bombardier will be producing Mk. 2 cars 20 to 25 years from now. Remember the BETA video format or Elcasette? The problem with proprietary railways is that they tend to cost more to maintain and a whole lot more to replace vehicles.

  5. Dave 2 Says:

    Thanks for that Zwei, I Learned Something Today; I’d never heard of the Elcaset Audio Cassette format before http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elcaset . Reminds me of the “RCA SelectaVision” needle and groove video disc format that our UBC residence invested in back in ’81…A junque shop in Hedley had one for sale a few years back… I think the difference is, unlike Elcaset and Selectavision, the Mk-1s have been in constant operation for up to 25 years without major incident, and this recent incident will cause an intese investigation of the brakes on the other MK-1 cars to ensure that this does not re-ocurr.. As an aside, what is the oldest rolling stock on the London Underground, the Chigao L, the NYC subway, etc? Surely the London Underground no longer runs the 1938 stock.

    (PS, your final point is certainly true, no argument with that)

    Zweisystem replies: I don’t know what subways operate the oldest stock; (1938 Tube stock long since retired) but i do know that the Glenelg Tramway in Adelaide operated trams (more like interurbans) built in the late 20’s until just a few years ago. A few European tram operations operate non-museum stock that were built in the 50’s and many ex first generation articulated trams from many European cities, which are about 50 years old or older, are being refurbished and sold to Turkey or other Asian tram countries. I doubt there is any market for second hand Mk. 1’s.

    It would be interesting to compare Calgary’s and San Diego’s ‘U-2’s’ with SkyTrain Mk.1’s, which are about the same age.

    A note: ‘Zwei’ knows a lot about Elcassette, because I almost bought one! For those not in the know, Dolby made Elcassette obsolete.

  6. Richard Says:

    As you should know, railway cars are not mass produced products like video cassettes so the comparison to BETA tapes is just a bit ridiculous. Pretty much all rail cars are custom built for each system even if the basic design is used for many systems. Even with only 7 systems in the world, Bombardier is not going to forgo the millions of dollars it will continue to get from ALRT car orders. And if Bombardier does not want to, as all patents on the technology have long expired, there is no reason why another firm could not build compatible cars. Sure, designs with less volume like SkyTrain may cost a bit more but compared to the cost of operating and maintaining a rapid transit system, that additional cost will be quite small.

    Zweisystem replies: Richard you are absolutely wrong. Transit vehicles are designed to suit how they are operated. SkyTrain MK.2 cars may look like regular metro cars, but that is strictly cosmetic. Mk. 2 cars are designed to be powered by LIM’s not ‘rotary electric motors and are built completely differently to take into account the stresses or lack of, by using LIM’s. SkyTrain cars are lighter in construction and it would cost a competing company a lot of money to design a LIM powered metro car.

    Some years ago, Zwei asked an agent for a major transit company, the cost to develop a LIM powered car for SkyTrain and his answer was a staggering $50 million to $70 million! Who is going to spend that type of money to produce a few cars for SkyTrain type systems in the future?

  7. BCPhil Says:

    @ Zweisystem:

    I don’t think a Skytrain has ever hit a crane before. If it has, it’s pretty hard story to find. There was an accident involving a crane during the building of the bike lane attached to the Canada Line Bridge. I did however find a story where a manned C-train hit a crane in Calgary, injuring 6. Maybe that’s what you are thinking of?

    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/calgary/story/2008/08/27/calgary-ctrain-lrt-crane.html

    I’ve not heard of a Skytrain derailing from a collision with a person, but in at least once incident I could find the Skytrain was jacked up (manually taken off the tracks) so a body of a suicide could be recovered.

    But of course any system that’s getting old is going to need more maintenance. Even manually operated LRT trains are going to need increased maintenance and inspections as they age.

    I believe the C-Train still uses it’s original U2s that were built in the early 80’s; older than the skytrain in question that lost part of its break (which was actually one of the 1995-96 trains, not original). Also of note is that C-Train has actually lost trains to the junkyard that were too damaged due to accidents (I don’t believe we’ve scrapped any skytrains yet).

    Zweisystem replies: SkyTrain did hit a crane, near main street station some years ago. I would surmise that a front section may have been scrapped, but not the entire train. The problem could be that TransLink, to reduce operating costs, has reduced the maintenance schedule for the metro.

    The LIM is only 1 cm above the reaction rail and when an object comes between the LIM and reaction rail, it lifts the truck.

  8. EV Says:

    LRT could easily be derailed still. Its stuck on a track and it can’t just break as hard as it can since it would throw its passengers around especially since they’re not buckled up and unlike in a car it can’t turn out of the way. plus theres the fact when something like that happens the driver could freak out and make it worse. Plus if something like this happened with LRT not only would it stop trasnit it would stop the traffic on the streets. also LRT would have to worry about parts of cars falling of on the track instead of just other trains and some people are horrible at up keeping there cars.

    Zweisystem replies: Wrong, wrong, wrong. LRT/streetcar can stop very fast as they have mechanism called and electromagnetic track brake, which can stop a tram faster than a car. Remember, LRT operated in a reserved rights-of-way and doesn’t impede auto traffic and if a tram breaks down, another tram can easily tow it away.

  9. dave Says:

    I worked on commissioning the new mark 2 cars just delivered. They are made in mexico at a bombardier plant down there. The workmanship was terrible lots of miss wires and crucial hardware not torqued. When we were performing a accel and brake test on one of the trains it almost caught on fire due to the terminals on the main power cables not being torqued and the hardware falling off. I have many more examples of poor and even completely negligent manufacturing. Anyway my point is that the old trains are probably safer than the brand new trains. Sky train was working hard to fix all the problems with the new trains but there were so many that some are bound to be missed hopefully it wont be a big one. I ended up quitting because bombardier wouldn’t pay me enough. They got guys up from mexico on “business trips” to work. They got paid in paseos which worked out to 6 dollars an hour. Bombardier has received handouts from the Canadian government and that’s what they do.

  10. hello Says:

    What you don’t mention is that SkyTrain has never had a collision or other incident, while an LRT driven by a person can easily make mistakes.
    No one was hurt, whats the big deal?

    Zweisystem replies: Yet more people are killed by SkyTrain per year than comparable LRT systems.

  11. hello Says:

    Most of those are caused by people who are pushed between trains or people who commit suicide, both of which a driver would still be unable to prevent.
    Lets not forget how much Edmonton hates their LRT, which backs up traffic and due to a construction mistake can only operate three cars per train.

    Zweisystem replies: Same is true for light rail! Oh yes, Edmonton hates their LRT so much they are expanding it!

    Some corrections: Edmonton found that LRT enhanced traffic flows and any and all on-street construction (sewer water, etc.) backs up traffic, hell the Canada Line backed up traffic for four years and destroyed adjacent businesses! Oh, yes due to spiraling costs, the RAV/Canada line stations can only handle 2 1/2 cars! And that was by design!

    A 3 car LRT train is equal to over 6 MK. 1 cars! We can’t operate 8 MK. 1 cars on the present guideway, so what’s your point?

  12. hello Says:

    yes, both systems backed up traffic during construction, but the lrt continues to back up traffic during operation, due to street level crossings at intersections. I am yet to meet one Edmontonian who likes the LRT.

    Zweisystem replies: Really, what a bunch of nonsense. It is pure myth that LRT backs up traffic, in fact LRT running parallel to roads, tends to enhance traffic flows. Red Lights at intersections blocks traffic too; would you have all traffic lights taken out?

    People in Edmonton must like LRT because they are expanding the network and it seems the majority of voters approve of expansion.

  13. hello Says:

    Dude, have you ever even been to Edmonton?
    I have personally had to sit at an intersection while three LRTs went past.
    It took ten minutes.
    Before, it would take less then 2.

    Zweisystem replies: I really doubt your statement as it takes a light rail vehicle less than 10 seconds to clear an intersection, which is faster than a regular stop light.

  14. hello Says:

    There have been some traffic light issues at LRT crossings too.
    Some drivers have had to wait more then two hours to cross the intersections the first opening day.

    Zweisystem replies: Again, I doubt your statement. I know you dislike light rail but please do not tell tall tales.

  15. bulleid35028 Says:

    Great pity hello, that you are unable to stop yourself from expressing your misguided prejudices on an on-line forum. Do yourself & everyone else a favour; carry out a little research on the Edmonton Light Rail system before you think about posting your misrepresentations again
    Here’s follows your starter for two.

    http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?t=182153

    http://www.edmonton.ca/transportation/LRT_Benefits_Fact_Sheet.pdf

  16. Burnabyaaron Says:

    I’m extremely interested to see a story about this skytrain hitting a crane. My searches come up with nothing, so if you have something I’d like a link.

    I personally have been held up by the C-train in Calgary on 36th St. at Intersections it added to the time due to the time it takes for the system shut down the intersection before the train comes. 36th St. is a mess.

    On the other hand I have never been held up by a skytrain. Minor delays while riding it to work upon occasion, but that sort of thing will happen on any system.

    “Zweisystem replies: Again, I doubt your statement. I know you dislike light rail but please do not tell tall tales.”

    I know you dislike Skytrain, but please stop telling tales such as crane accidents, show proof!

    Zweisystem replies: The SkyTrain/crane accident took place near Main Street station, where a crane operator fouled the line with the boom.

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