The SkyTrain MK. 3 – The End of an Era?


MK. 3 SkyTrain, gangwayed throughout.

The new Mk.3 car is really a tarted up Mk.2 car, with one noticeable difference, the MK.3 sets now include a powered “saloon” vehicle, gangwayed at both ends.

This will enable TransLink operate 3-car trains.

The problem with the proprietary SkyTrain is that they cannot operate larger cars than the present MK.2’s do to the constraints of the Expo Line. The MK.3 cars have about as much in common with the Canada Line’s Hyundai’s metro cars as a Ford Edsel compared to Hyundai built SUV.

This news item is a good example of the media “puff” piece, reporting non news as real news, because the MK.3 trains have been in operation since 2016!

So now here is the real story: When production of the MK.3 cars are completed, sometime in 2019, there is a very good chance that Bombardier Inc. will mothball or even dismantle the SkyTrain production Line due to lack of sales, as not one new SkyTrain system has been built in the past decade and of the remaining  six SkyTrains in operation, not one is asking for new orders.

TransLink takes possession of ‘Marky’ – the new SkyTrain cars

  • Chris Campbell / Burnaby Now September 19, 2018

    ‘Marky’ waiting to be unloaded.
    Photograph By TRANSLINK

    One of the most common complaints I hear about train on social media are the conditions of the older SkyTrain cars.

    Usually it involves the lack of air flow, the smell, the crowded feel and the noise.

  • Ugh, the noise of the older cars – it’s like fingernails on a chalk board, only if you were crammed into a tiny space with 100 strangers all staring at their phones while somebody scraped their fingernails down the chalkboard.But help is on its way.TransLink recently took delivery of “Marky” – the newest Mark III SkyTrain — which, according to the transit authority’s Buzzer Blog, arrived in Metro Vancouver on Sept. 12 after a week-long trek across Canada.
  • “Marky’s the first four of 56 cars (no. 429, 430, 431 and 432) for the Expo and Millennium Lines, built by Bombardier Transportation, to arrive,” said the blog. “Twenty-four additional cars will arrive early next year and another 28 by the end of the same year, for a total of 56 cars for the Expo and Millennium Lines.”The cars will be more like the ones on the train to Richmond – which after leaving some of the old Expo line cars feels like the flight attendant pulled back the drapes and let you sit in first class.What happens next is “Marky” will be put through a battery of tests to make sure it can withstand the rigours of life on the SkyTrain.


13 Responses to “The SkyTrain MK. 3 – The End of an Era?”
  1. Haveacow says:

    From what I understand now, the 5 section Mk. 4 vehicles will be a 4 section Mk. 3 unit with an extra section put in the center of the vehicle. My spies tell me that the probable production line will be the current one that is producing the 152 metre long gangwayed Azur Metro train sets for the Montreal Metro. However, they will have to wait until the extra trainsets are produced for the planned Blue Line Extension around 2020-21, maybe even 2022. It depends on the size of the Azur Metro Train follow up order for the Blue Line Extension project. Exact numbers are not known yet! However there will be a 2-3 month retooling of that line so that, it can provide the Mk. 4 vehicles efficiently. This will of course add costs to the new Mk 4 vehicles.

    Zwei replies: My spy, from South of the 49th, informed me that after a frank discussion about Toronto’s Flexity problems, a Bombardier type said, it will be different when we phase out ART and concentrate with our current orders.

  2. Haveacow says:

    Currently secondary manufacturing of the Mk. 3 trains after primary manufacturing in the Montreal plant, is done in Bombardier’s Milhaven facility. However, this facility’s primary purpose is the manufacturing of Flexity Swift LRV’s for the Eglinton Crosstown, Finch West, Waterloo’s Ion Line and the seven section Flexity’s for Edmonton’s Valley Line, with many follow on orders are expected, so Bombardier may be forced to do all manufacturing in Montreal then ship any new Mk. 4 vehicles to Milhaven for testing, then being broken up back into it’s individual sections for shipment to Vancouver. This whole process is really time consuming and will extend the final delivery time compared to the current order’s shipment time.

  3. damien says:

    Do you have proof that Bombadier will stop making them?

    Zwei replies: It will be a business decision. As Vancouver is currently the only city which is ordering the Innovia cars and with only 6 other (soon to be 5) cities operating LIM powered Innovia cars, it will be uneconomical to keep the production Line in operation.

    Far too many professionals have pointed this out to me, as the SkyTrain system ages and with few takers, production will cease.

    The other problem facing Bombardier is that other companies are also producing light weight body shells for niche transit systems and can undercut Bombardier’s price on a large order. If there is a large order for Innovia LIM operated cars post 2020, the production Line will remain intact, otherwise, there are more far more lucrative train orders in the offing and space is limited.

    As mentioned before, proprietary systems age poorly and Innovia SkyTrain is now showing the effects of growing old.

  4. Haveacow says:

    To all the Skytrain fans, Bombardier won’t end production of the Skytrain system however, they use to purposely keep a production line open in their Montreal plant that produced the large pieces that are needed in the first or primary production phase of the Innovia vehicles. Secondary or second phase production (putting the big pieces together) would occur either in Montreal on an adjacent production line or at a separate facility, like the Milhaven (Kingston Area) Ontario facility or the Thunder Bay Assembly plant. Final assembly would occur at Kingston or Thunder Bay. Testing was always at Milhaven.

    The problem is that very few orders for the Innovia Automatic Light Metro Transportation System (the current marketing name for the Skytrain) are expected and Bombardier needs the current Montreal line for other more pressing projects. They make 30+ classes of rail vehicles across the world and need the line for other orders. 700 vehicles in 40 years or about 300 since Bombardier took over ownership of what was originally a product of the Urban Transit Development Corporation of Ontario or UTDC, isot enough to hold a production line open for a single vehicle type. Keep in mind that Bombardier’s Flexity Light Rail Vehicle family of products alone is on track for 4000+ deliveries by 2020. Not bad for a vehicle that only started production in the late 1990’s ( late 1997-early 1998). Bombardier’s Movia Line of Metro vehicles has 6000+ delivered or on order, considering these numbers it’s not a good business decision to keep a single line open for a vehicle like the Skytrain with maybe a few hundred delivered vehicles and very few orders coming in.

    What this means, is any new Skytrain order has to wait for an open or free production line then, wait even more as the line is retooled, for the Skytrain design. Retooling can take a few weeks or months depending on how much the existing line has to be worked. This adds cost to the vehicle because the customer has the cost of the retooling included in vehicle order final price.

    Something else

    The Bombardier Thunder Bay Assembly Plant is also where Toronto’s Flexity Outlook Streetcars (LRV’s really) are assembled. These are the ones that are giving the TTC so much trouble. The LRV fleet ordered by Metrolinx, the Flexity Swift model Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) for the various Toronto LRT projects are being built and assembled in the purpose built facility at Milhaven. Both the Flexity Outlook Streetcars and the Flexity Swift LRV’s look almost exactly the same and are just sub models of the very successful Flexity Family of LRV’S built by Bombardier and in use around the world. So far, Bombardier has built 3000+ versions of the Flexity and still have hundreds on order waiting for delivery. The problem with the Toronto Streetcars are primarily because Bombardier has never built a 100% low floor Flexity LRV outside of it’s European supply and assembly chain. The North American supply and assembly chain of Bombardier and it’s workers have never built anything this demanding before and unfortunately are on a very steep learning curve.

  5. Damien says:

    If Bombardier end production of skytrain. Can the Skytrain lines be upgraded to operate other kinds of light metro trains. There is the elevated guideway and track. Expo has that middle rail, Canada line doesn’t have it.

    Zwei replies: The Canada Line is a heavy-rail metro and one could operate freight trains on the guideway. There is no relation to the Expo and Millennium Lines.

    The Expo and Millennium Lines are in fact two different railways. The Expo Line is the old and lightly built ICTS/ALRT system and there are many restrictions for operating equipment. I do know of an old BC Transit study about operating trams on the quideway if ALRT fizzled.

    The Millennium Line is a far more robust rebuild of the ICTS/ALRT Lines and one could operate other light metros if one wished and if ones wallet was deep enough.

    One can always have custom cars made for both lines, but it is costly.

    In Toronto, the cost of upgrading was such that tearing down the existing guideway and installing a new transit system, was the better investment.

  6. zweisystem says:

    Just to mention, TransLink has never been very honest about costs and to this day, there has never been a true costing of the Canada Line.

    As both BC Transit and TransLink were in partnership to sell SkyTrain abroad, fudged figures were the order of the day.

    This fooled no one, except out local yokels who bought into the SkyTrain swindle, lock stock and barrel.

  7. Haveacow says:

    Yes @Damien, there are many LRT manufacturers who could easily build Light Rail Vehicles that fit on to the Expo and Millennium Line profiles. They can could also use the existing third rail if needed and remove the pesky and expensive to maintain Induction Rail. This was the belief of one the former Translink maintenance chiefs I spoke to a few years ago. He believed maintenance costs would drop at the least by 25%, if not up to 45% (depending on the vehicles used) by getting rid the Linear Induction Propulsion System and adopting the newer, simpler and much cheaper electric rotary motor systems. Even today on their website, Bombardier offers the Innovia Automatic Light Metro Transportation System (Skytrain) with or without the Linear Induction Propulsion System. It is considered an option, not a core part of the system to new buyers.

    Zwei, I am curious, what is the actual difference in the Viaducts and Guideway of the Expo and Millennium Lines, other than the newer Millennium Line is a more robust build? What constituted the need for a change during the years after the opening of the Expo Line? Is their a specific measure like, mass of the viaduct per mertre of track that they used to describe the differences? This is the first I have ever heard of this, other than that both lines are composed of really light infrastructure say compared to the equivalent structures on the Toronto’s and Montreal’s Metro Systems or any of the traditional American Metro Systems. Heck, its even lighter compared to the bridges and viaducts on some new LRT lines in North America.

  8. zweisystem says:

    When the Millennium Line opened, TransLink had to spend about $150 million on the Expo Line guideway, so it would support the new and heavier ART Cars.

    The late Des Turner( the chap who got me into this in the first place) had a letter from TransLink that stated that the Expo Line needed more structural refurbishments and the strengthening of the Expo line viaduct was the bare minimum to allow the ART cars to operate on it. As the Expo Line was not designed for the ART cars, it was much lighter in construction.

    On Terminal Ave, one can see the extra steel plating on the cement viaduct supports.

    Probably why pieces of cement are falling off it now.

  9. Damien says:

    The expo line along terminal is the oldest part and main street station is the first station built for the demostration line in the early 1980’s. This section was reinforced when millenium line built and station rebuilt in 2014.

    Expo line is over 30 years old, it will need some maintenance and reinforcements. Stations could be expanded for longer platforms. All this could be done over a many years. That should not stop it extending it to Langley.

    An elevated line is much better than one at ground level. It will be faster and eliminate accidents with trains. There will be much less land that needs to be purchased. Fraser highway does not need to be widened much. LRT at ground level needs more land. Park land will be lost.

    As you said above, companies could build LRT to run on the expo line if skytrain fails. It probably will not happen soon. Skytrain could be phased out and replaced with something else using the same guideways and tunnels.

    Skytrain probably was not the best choice but the decision was made by a previous government to use the technology. It should just be limited to two lines of the expo and millenium with extensions.

    The LRT from Guildford to Newton is good choice as it is a new line that could be extended further south to Whiterock, west to Scott Road then to Scott Road Station or east to Cloverdale and fraser valley.

    Zwei replies: First off, ART/ALRT SkyTrain was never designed to be a regional railway and as operated as one, would be both user unfriendly and very expensive.

    If you have been following this blog, you can build SkyTrain to Surrey, if you wish, but the consequences would be many.

    The legal capacity of the Innovia SkyTrain system is 15,000 pphpd and the system operates near capacity. By extending it to Surrey, without a $3 billion rehab would mean greater headway’s, because the system can’t handle any more trains (Why the Millennium Line only operates 2-car trains?), thus there would be tremendous inconvenience for transit customers in the inner paert of the system, due to lack of train service.

    The real question is, is their the ridership to justify the the $3 billion expense? Remember we are talking 10,000 or passengers an hour.

    This is the entire problem with SkyTrain, our transit planners and politicians have invented new rules for building transit, not one being anywhere close to being logical. This, over 40 years, has created an “Alice in Wonderland” transit system, run by the Mad Hatter. Our metro system does not conform to international norms and the taxpayer pays a dear price for this.

  10. Haveacow says:

    There is no money for an elevated Light Metro Skytrain line to Langley or any money for one to White Rock! The existing federal funds are not transferable and are program specific because all federal government transit money is done using a Private-Public Partnership or 3P structure. Money for basic design, planning and engineering has already been spent by contractors to the LRT project. Even though the main build, design, finance, operate and maintain consortium holder hasn’t been chosen yet! Both Translink and the Feds have to pay the contractors because as per the 3P agreement, they the early contractors, went out and got private money from Banks to complete their early design planning and engineering work in good faith and now await payment. This early work is already in the 10’s of millions of dollars. As soon as Translink and Surrey accepted federal money, they were committed legally to LRT!

    Remember ALL FEDERAL TRANSIT MONEY IS PROJECT SPECIFIC, it’s been that way since 2009 and the alternative finacce model or 3P structure is the only way you can get their money for transit! The era of just getting a certain dollar amount of federal money for transit and you can do whatever you want with it, is dead and gone forever! If you take the federal money, the project is set in stone! If you change your mind and plan to change the scope of the project you have to give the money back and wait for new funding for your new project! You are now unfortunately, at the end of a very long line.

    If you want to add an extension to Langley you have no extra passenger carrying capacity. So any passenger traffic from a Langley extension is simply going to run into the existing level of passenger traffic on the Expo Line every peak period. The line is currently at or very near it’s functional limit that it can currently handle.

    The Expo lin e is worn out and much of it’s existing infrastructure needs outright replacement. The cost will be between $2.4-$3.1 Billion to do what is required and provide enough new passenger carrying capacity. Unfortunately, there is no money budgeted to do the vast majority of the work. Some money is budgeted in the current 10 year plan but it’s seriously small peanuts, compared to what is needed to be spent.

    As Zwei stated earlier, steel plates and probably support concrete needed to be added to take on the newer models of Skytrains on the original Expo Line. That work I can guarantee you that, without even looking at it, also needs to be replaced outright and upgraded. These types of patches generally only last a decade and a half to 2 decades before the work needs upgrades (advice from an old friend and structural engineer extraordinare- hang on Mac your not done yet). Patch work never really lasts that long, it wouldn’t be a patch up if was meant to last the entire life of the Expo Line’s viaduct.

  11. zweisystem says:

    Thank you!

  12. Bill Burgess says:

    LRT in Surrey – and especially LRT to Langley – will ALSO increase the pressure on E+M lines, if by less than Skytrain to Langley probably would have, as the former will take longer and require a transfer.

    So the money will have to be found to make the necessary upgrades as they become absolutely essential. The current 15K pphpd allowed will be increased upwards towards the E+M lines significantly higher design capacity, perhaps including by reducing headways.

    This is a political choice – money for transit, or money for cars and trucks, highways, bridges, etc.

    By all means, propose an alternative technology that could utilize the Skytrain routes, etc. But, be real about how realistic such alternatives are likely to be within the near or even medium-term future. Zwei’s tram train is a worthy candidate for the Lower Mainland transit mix, but in its best possible form it could never substitute for Skytrain as a way to move large numbers of people from municipalities on one side of the river to municipalities on the other.

    Zwei replies: The time factor is actually a man of straw issue. As SkyTrain has far fewer stations per route km than LRT, of course that means a faster trip, but not that faster. What is the total trip time door to door? I ask this because one needs to take a bus and transfer to a SkyTrain, but with LRT, stops may be more convenient. Studies have shown with subways in Europe, that travel times are faster for trams, with journeys less than 7 km.

    The transfer is also another local man of straw issue as TransLink does not seem to have any problem forcing all bus customers, All South Fraser bus customers to transfer to SkyTrain at Bridgeport Station.

    Also remember TransLink fired their LRT people over the Broadway subway when they dared to suggest that comments from the CoV were not true and the ridership was not is sufficient quantities to justify a subway.

    Again, there is not the ridership to justify a SkyTrain extension to Langley and probably not the ridership to justify LRT as well. TransLink would habe been better off, planning to build LRT to Whiterock instead.

  13. Damien says:

    So you think it is better to destroy the Green Timbers park. Widening the highway to build an LRT will do just that. The highway is only 2 lanes through that park.

    Zwei replies: SkyTrain will take the same land take as LRT.

    What should happen is build LRT and keep a 2 lane road.

    If one builds with LRT, why then does one need a 4 lane highway?

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