TransLink to proceed with new $110 million SkyTrain control centre

Jun 24 2020, 5:02 pm

Construction is expected to begin in 2021 on a critical new piece of SkyTrain infrastructure that accommodates the growth of the rail rapid transit system.

TransLink is building a new Operation Control Centre at its Operations & Maintenance Centre 2 (OMC2) facility in Burnaby’s Edmonds area, just across from the main Edmonds Operations and Maintenance Centre (OMC1).

Both existing facilities currently provide the operational and maintenance needs for the Expo and Millennium lines, but the public transit authority says the existing 1980s-built Operation Control Centre within OMC1 cannot support the planned SkyTrain extensions.

The Millennium Line Broadway Extension to Arbutus and the Expo Line Surrey-Langley Extension will add up to 22 km of new track and 14 stations combined. Both of these projects are set to open in 2025, with Expo Line extension to run to at least Fleetwood if funding limitations require a phased project.

The new Operation Control Centre at OMC2 will be built on a vacant site that is currently used as ground-level parking.

new skytrain control centre omc2

Site of the new SkyTrain Operation Control Centre at OMC2. (TransLink)

new skytrain control centre omc2

Site of the new SkyTrain Operation Control Centre at OMC2. (TransLink)

It will be a four-storey, oval-shaped building, with a significant data centre room on the first level that can fit seven rows of computer cabinets. Directly, above there will be a double height control room, where staff control and monitor functions such as train conditions, movements, and guideway intrusions.

TransLink says the existing old control room will still be used, complementing the new control room, but the exact role it will play will be determined later.

SkyTrain control centre

The 1980s-built SkyTrain control room for the Expo Line and Millennium Line. (TransLink)

The public transit authority was unable to comment on the exact uses for the new computers in the data centre, as the development of the data centre is still in progress.

But the size of the data centre and the $110 million cost of the relatively small new building suggests this could replace OMC1’s old Vehicle Control Computers, which run on giant floppy disks.

new skytrain control centre omc2

Diagram of the new SkyTrain Operation Control Centre. (TransLink)

new skytrain control centre omc2

New control room at the new SkyTrain Operation Control Centre. (TransLink)

new skytrain control centre omc2

New data centre at the new SkyTrain Operation Control Centre. (TransLink)

The new building’s total floor area is 40,322 sq ft, including 28,500-sq-ft of office and control centre space, and 11,819 sq ft for the data centre and storage.

It is expected to reach completion in 2024, allowing it to undergo thorough testing before the opening of the SkyTrain extensions the following year.

sydney trains operation centre

Artistic rendering of the Sydney Trains Operation Centre, an example of a modern rail transit control room. (Atdec)

OMC2 was originally built in 1999 by Bombardier for its office and final assembly process of the Mark II SkyTrain cars that had been ordered for the 2002 opening of the Millennium Line. This existing structure contains about 91,000 sq ft of total floor area, including 34,000 sq ft of office, 45,000 sq ft of manufacturing, and 12,200 sq ft of warehouse.

The location was strategically chosen by Bombardier so that the newly built trains could simply be rolled across the street to OMC1.

The provincial government bought OMC2 from Bombardier in 2004 after it stopped producing the Mark II cars at the location, and then it quickly sold the property to another buyer. For about a decade afterwards, it was used as a warehouse for clothing and carpet.

Then in 2014, TransLink acquired the property for $14 million for the purpose of using its expanded operational and maintenance space for SkyTrain, specifically the mid-life refurbishment of the Mark I cars to extend their lifespan through the 2020s.

The public transit authority is also planning to spend $73 million on improving the maintenance facilities of OMC1, particularly the capability to handle the longer five-car trains in the future.

Bombardier Mark III Metro Innovia 300 skytrain

Artistic rendering of a Bombardier Innovia Metro 300 train vehicle, currently known on Metro Vancouver’s SkyTrain system as the Mark III. (Bombardier)

TransLink is proceeding with its procurement of over 200 new SkyTrain cars, which includes replacement cars for the old Mark I cars, new additional cars for the extensions, and a general capacity increase. International bidders for the new fleet are expected to submit their final financial proposals by the end of this month.

A small expansion of OMC3, built at Falcon Drive in Coquitlam as part of the Evergreen Extension, was recently completed to increase the train storage capacity by 30 additional cars.

Additionally, TransLink is planning OMC4 — a new major storage and maintenance facility for trains to help accommodate the new fleet of cars, and the long extension. The cost of OMC4 for an undisclosed location near the southernmost end of the Expo Line extension in Langley was previously estimated at $270 million.

While the Canada Line is branded as part of the region’s SkyTrain network, it has separate maintenance and operations, with the operation control room located within the Bridgeport Operations and Maintenance Centre, just east of Bridgeport Station. As part of a $35 million upgrade project, this facility recently saw its train storage capacity increased to accommodate the acquisition of 32 new additional cars.