TransLink declared all transit service free on Friday after a small fire shut down SkyTrain service on the Expo Line for 13 hours, causing major delays on the morning commute.
An errant spark from a crew using grinders to maintain track near Main Street landed in a bird’s nest that caught fire around 11 p.m. and then burned about a metre of critical SkyTrain communications cable.
Service was halted between Joyce Station and Waterfront until nearly noon Friday.
Track grinding is routine to keep the track in good condition and SkyTrain noise levels down.
“It’s a freak incident,” TransLink interim CEO Doug Allen said. “But obviously we’re having a look at the nesting through the system and we’re looking at restraining sparks from grinders.”
Bird netting is used in strategic areas to keep birds from nesting near the tracks, but it wasn’t in place on this section as it hadn’t been identified as a problem area.
— TransLink BC (@TransLink) May 22, 2015
TransLink apologized to passengers for the inconvenience and said free transit on Friday was a gesture of good will.
“Their time is priceless, at least we can respond with free service for the day in question,” Allen said.
TransLink is also considering how to compensate people with monthly passes, as well as those who paid for tickets Friday – they’re advised to hang onto them.
Allen defended the response of TransLink staff to this shutdown as “very, very good” and many passengers said on social media TransLink communications was much better than during two lengthy shutdowns last summer.
Extra buses were added to shuttle passengers around the closed section of line and they were also encouraged to take buses west on major Vancouver arteries to the Canada Line.