TransLink wrong to throw electrician linked to SkyTrain shutdown “under the train”, union says

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      A union representing TransLink workers is taking issue with the regional transportation authority throwing one of its members under the bus, er, SkyTrain in connection with Monday's (July 21) shutdown of the Expo and Millennium lines.

      The Canadian Union of Public Employees questions why the electrician that TransLink says tripped the main breaker at a power distribution panel, sparking the SkyTrain outage, was suspended before a "proper investigation", while his supervisor was not.

      “The panel is of poor design. This problem, regarding the hazards and potential for failure, is well known by the employer and was raised on several occasions by our members. This panel should not be worked on during Skytrain operating hours. But they ignored this information,” CUPE national representative Louise Oetting said in a news release this afternoon (July 22).

      “Now we have a situation where an individual has been suspended after being directed to work in an unsafe manner—and this public blame and suspension has occurred without a proper investigation having been completed.”

      This morning, TransLink blamed "human error" for the second SkyTrain shutdown in a week.

      "An experienced electrician was installing a new circuit breaker for the Evergreen Line at a power distribution panel when he accidently tripped the main breaker feeding the critical systems at SkyTrain’s operations centre, causing a system-wide shut down of train controls," TransLink said in a release.

      CUPE is now conducting its own investigation and plans to contact WorkSafeBC.

      “The employer has agreed that we mustn’t candy-coat the issue, as people want answers," Oetting said. "Their answer was to throw our member under the train.”


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      Jul 22, 2014 at 5:39pm

      What else would you expect from a "corporate" cabal of scum like Translink. What a completely useless waste of resources that whole outfit is. Time to make it a completely public entity again to serve the people and not the powers that be.


      Jul 22, 2014 at 8:43pm

      Seems to me that Translink are grownups and I would assume they have a legal department. Therefore, I am inclined to think that they actually do have information that an electrician fucked up the power for the system. If it's not true, well union you can bring on the defamation lawsuit.

      completely ridiculous response by translink

      Jul 22, 2014 at 9:45pm

      where was their change control? don't they (translink) do risk assessments and create mitigation strategies before working on their core systems? especially for a risk that is known? assuming the root cause wasn't gross negligence or ignoring of protocol, this is a result of poor planning and that speaks to organizational processes and standards which fall on management. suspending the worker smacks of reactionary politics to provide a facade of management to the public. get some standards.

      Lee L

      Jul 23, 2014 at 1:06am

      You do have to SUSPEND the electrician in order to CLEAR the electrician. Such an 'EVENT' will trigger a full safety investigation plus and that electrician will need to be drug tested and the whole scenario investigated BY TRANSLINK. That will happen.

      Sounds like the electrician was replacing a piece of a PDC ( Power Distribution Centre) and either pulled a breaker intentionally,but unaware of the full consequence, or somehow made a wiring error.

      In any case, once the power breaker was tripped, it wouldnt be possible to just 'reset' the breaker at will because of the danger to the general public who are made up of a large percentage of people uneducated in the electrics of SKYtrain PLUS a small percentage of complete idiots who would force a door in a dead train and walk on the high voltage conductors unaware that it COULD be reset.

      I dont think TRANSLINK has any real blame here except possibly for lack of foresight and preparation. I am not a TRANSLINK fan but this is not why we ought to dismantle the organization.


      Jul 23, 2014 at 8:18am

      No dual redundancy systems in place, stupid amount of dollars being spent on CompAss, can't tell me it's not worthwhile to have a backup system, may need more than one for each line but that's irrelevant. Doug Kelsey blaming delays on riders breaking out of cars, blaming delays on electrician, blame blame blame. The buck stops at the top. Not sure if this is still law but every business is supposed to have at least 1 hard-wired (copper) emergency line/phone in place on the premises. Can't understand or believe that the paging system is not separate from the main switch. How mickey mouse is that? (no insult to mickey mouse) Give folks 2 free days transit on weekdays, not a stat holiday. What the hell is that?! Translink appears to not want to lose the revenue in spite of what riders have gone through. Poor planning. Crusty Clark's gov't. is also responsible. VERY responsible but they like to download to the crown corps. & pretend it has nothing to do with them. What the hell?!


      Jul 23, 2014 at 8:26am

      There are a lot of things wrong with this whole incident. First there should have been a risk assessment done and a safe work procedure written. Especially in panels such as this that control the Skytrain there should not have been anyone allowed in the panel during revenue service. During the construction of the Millenium Line when we were connecting into the original Expo line this type of work was done during non revenue hours. A procedure was developed and the work carried out. In this case the supervisor should have been involved and the electrician should not have entered the panel. There is more than one person at fault and before anyone was suspended a complete investigation should have been carried out and a procedure written so it would never happen again.

      @Lee L

      Jul 23, 2014 at 10:09am

      good perspective. if that's how these things work then suspend is procedural and the media is portraying the decision incorrectly. that said, there still seems to be some issue with translink's response to system outages. their communication is relatively weak - you know people will be on the trains when the system goes down and their expectations and actions/reactions need to be better managed.

      outages will happen. that is a fact for all systems. and while current pubic expectations with respect to impact and resolution times are somewhat unrealistic, they make a lack of foresight and preparation even worse... although, cost/benefit might have been done and a few days of media shit-storm and public outrage determined to be worth the cost.


      Jul 23, 2014 at 4:09pm

      Every article with the word "Translink" in it brings out the people butthurt that they're going to have to pay for the service - eventually.


      Jul 23, 2014 at 7:41pm

      Don't forget, before Kelsey ran Translink, Kelsey was president of SkyTrain literally since it opened in December 1985/January 1986. He knows the system intimatley, he knows the people who crafted and engineered SkyTrain from its infancy. He of all people understands SkyTrain inside and out and would not make the public statements he's made or pointed fingers if he didn't know what he was talking about and how it worked.

      Yes, Translink needs an overhaul in terms of who runs it and how its run. But remember that the BCRTC which specifically maintains and operates SkyTrain is what really runs the system before Translink does. Technology is technology, computers are computers. We use a system that was built and designed when Vancouver didn't have the population explosion we do now. It coninuously goes through hard and software upgrades to meet the needs of age, extensions, and capacity. There is only so much any metro system can handle without needing upgrades or being screwed over by nature and the independent minds of anything electronic. Nothing man made is perfect. It's kept us functioning well since Expo, and by no means has had nearly as many melt downs as many other much larger rapid transit systems. The Montreal Metro fails at least once a day. Toronto's 50 year old system has its own quirks from age and technology---and it's switching to 100% automation. The BART has issues, the NYC Subway has issues, the London Tube, etc. etc.

      Upgrades are being made, things are being done. Every system has imperfections and growing pains. We learn, we improve, we move on. Get over it. A lot of major cities don't even have a metro system at all---just piss-poor bus service and cars.