BC government announces $1.47-billion SkyTrain upgrade with 200 new cars

May 23 2019, 7:34 pm

Provincial and federal government funding for the acquisition of 200 new and additional replacement cars for SkyTrain’s Expo Line and Millennium Line, and associated train infrastructure upgrades to handle the new fleet, was formalized today.

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In a release, the provincial government says this next round of SkyTrain car orders and upgrades will cost $1.47 billion. This is also the largest and most expensive order of new cars in TransLink’s history.

No manufacturer has been identified, as this will be determined by a forthcoming procurement process led by the public transit authority beginning later this year.

This is not to be confused with the 56 new Mark III cars previously ordered from Bombardier and scheduled for a full delivery by the end of 2019.

The new funding will also go towards a new additional train maintenance and storage yard, upgrades to the existing Edmonds train operations and maintenance centre, and train control and operating systems, including a new operations and control centre for the entire SkyTrain network.

The location of the new additional storage facility has not been identified at this early stage of planning, but a site along the Expo Line’s future Fraser Highway extension has previously been stated as a possibility in early planning documents for that project.

The provincial government is contributing $579 million, the federal government is allocating $493 million, and TransLink is covering the remainder of $398 million. This investment is a part of Phase Two of the Mayors’ Council’s 10-year transit expansion and improvement plan.

“The BC government is working with all levels of government to deliver on transit projects that will get people out of traffic and make cleaner transportation options more convenient, available and affordable,” said Claire Trevena, BC Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, in a statement.

New SkyTrain car train Mark III

This new Mark III train is currently completing a certain number of hours in a variety of different service situations. Taken December 2018. (TransLink)

TransLink plans to use a significant portion of these new cars to replace the ageing fleet of 150 Mark I cars by the end of the 2020s. More than three-quarters of these first generation SkyTrain cars began operating in time for the 1986 World’s Fair, and the remaining cars arrived in two further batches in the early-to-mid 1990s.

The system’s capacity will grow from the larger car sizes, articulated connections, and the overall increase in the number of cars beyond the number of cars designated as replacements.

From this order, the Expo Line and Millennium Line’s capacities are slated to increase to 17,500 passengers per hour per direction (pphpd) and 7,500 pphpd, respectively. These increases represent a 32% and 96% boost in carrying capacity, respectively, over existing capacities.

The first new train cars from this batch could begin arriving as early as 2023, which will address demand from both annual ridership growth and the surge in ridership anticipated from the 2025 opening of the Millennium Line’s Broadway Extension.

TransLink has previously indicated the new cars will not necessarily be ordered from Bombardier, as it has received significant early interest from international manufacturers given the scale of the forthcoming train order.

Other manufacturers also produce trains using linear induction motors (LIM), which is not proprietary to Bombardier.

Early in the year, TransLink engaged in a public consultation on the interior design for this new car order.

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