TransLink board ‘negligent’ on SkyTrain shutdowns

Metro Vancouver mayors critical of rapid transit system emergency preparedness

TransLink’s appointed board of directors must take ultimate responsibility for senior managers’ failure to anticipate and prevent this month’s SkyTrain shutdowns.

That’s the position of Belcarra Mayor Ralph Drew, who called the unelected board “negligent” in failing to drill down and uncover the system’s vulnerabilities to emergency conditions.

“It really begs the question what has the TransLink board been doing over the years in terms of ensuring those priority issues were properly addressed?” Drew said at a regional mayors’ council meeting Tuesday. “They just took it on blind faith. The buck stops with the board.”

Board chair Marcella Szel said the board has had high-level briefings on SkyTrain’s  emergency plan but not the fine details.

“Unfortunately it takes incidents to teach us that it didn’t work,” she said.

The exchange happened as Szel and TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis were outlining an independent review to recommend steps to improve TransLink’s response to major shutdowns or emergencies.

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said he hopes there’s public support to spend necessary money on backup systems to reduce the probability of future incidents.

“We know that emergency planning doesn’t get votes and no one demands it until the emergency happens.”

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said she has lost faith in the system after her medically ill daughter was trapped on a hot, crowded SkyTrain car between New Westminster and Scott Road stations July 21 while her oxygen tank was running low.

“It was a very scary thing for me and for her,” Jackson said. “I was actually panicking. There were a lot of people on those trains and without air conditioning it was very difficult.”

Jackson told Jarvis and Szel major changes must be made to restore trust.

“The people that are using the system, with all due respect, don’t believe all of us that we’re going to fix it.”

In response to a question from Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, Jarvis said the review by Gary McNeil will also examine the Canada Line, not just the Expo and Millennium lines.

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