SkyTrain Shut Down Again, Angering Commuters

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For the second time in a week, Metro Vancouver's SkyTrain system completely shut down trains on the Expo and Millennium lines, again angering frustrated commuters.

The technical issues began around lunchtime on Monday and were not resolved for another five hours. It turned out that a problem with an electrical panel led to a complete power outage, said Colleen Brennan, TransLink's director of communications.

The failure prevented TransLink from even making public announcements on the system. Staff scrambled to evacuate the trains and close stations.

Nathaly Vazquez, who was stranded on a train for 45 minutes, said a TransLink staff member opened the car door and escorted passengers to the Main Street station.

Photos of passengers walking along the SkyTrain guide ways next to stalled trains filled social media accounts.

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SkyTrain Shutdown, July 21, 2014
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But some people left the trains illegally without waiting for TransLink staff. Many pried open train doors to get to nearby stations, said Transit Police spokeswoman Anne Drennan. She said even more people did that on Monday than during a similar shutdown four days ago.

She says Transit Police sympathize with frustrated passengers who are stuck inside stalled cars but points out the tracks carry an electrical charge of 600 volts.

Brennan said the damaged doors actually added to the delay in getting the system back up and running.

TransLink added trains to the Canada Line, which was not affected, as well as additional buses, and bus bridges to transport people between SkyTrain stations. More staff were brought in to direct customers at the stations, on the phones and online.

Vancouver police suspended "taxi enforcement" to allow taxis from outside of the city to pick up fares until SkyTrain service resumed.

The service interruption had many passengers demanding refunds, but that's not possible under the current fare system, TransLink spokeswoman Jiana Ling told Global BC1 on Monday.

Last Thursday, the same two SkyTrain lines ground to a halt at the height of rush hour, stranding thousands of commuters for hours. The problem was traced to a failed card in the main control computer that needed to be replaced. Brennan said Monday's power outage was not related.

"We apologize to our customers for this unusual incident, which caused parts of our SkyTrain system to be out of service for such a lengthy period of time," company president Fred Cummings said last week. "We operate a complex system with many moving parts, and we work hard to keep our system in good repair and keep it running smoothly for our customers."

He told CTV News that a backup computer system that could take over during a SkyTrain breakdown would cost $20 million.

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