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Three people injured when Vancouver SkyTrain escalator malfunctioned

The escalators at Granville Station are the longest in Metro Vancouver, and were at the front of the cue for a 13-station program to replace escalators that were more than three decades old
In 2022, TransLink reported a total of 83 million riders on its Expo and Millennium lines

One of the escalators replaced three years ago at Granville SkyTrain Station malfunctioned in late September, leaving three people with unspecified injuries.

A person not authorized to speak to the media said that one of the escalators stopped and suddenly accelerated at least twice with people aboard, causing passengers to fall onto each other.

"TransLink is aware of an incident involving an escalator accelerating at Granville Station on Sept. 29, resulting in three reported injuries,” said senior media relations manager Shruti Prakash Joshi. “Technical Safety BC was informed immediately and the escalator was taken out of service. The cause of the incident is being investigated.”

Joshi said the escalator is maintained and managed by the manufacturer and TransLink hopes it will be back operating by the end of the week.

TransLink’s account on X, formerly known as Twitter, said that the Seymour Street entrance to Granville Station was temporarily closed Oct. 5 for escalator inspection.

In July 2020, TransLink finished a $14.52 million project to replace the Granville Station escalators. The “big three” escalators, the longest in Metro Vancouver, are 35 metres long each, with 500 steps.

Granville Station was the start of a 13-station program to replace 37 Expo Line and West Coast Express escalators that are more than 30 years old. A year ago, TransLink began to replace five escalators at Burrard Station in a project that is scheduled to be completed in spring 2024.

In its 2022 statement of financial information, TransLink reported paying escalator and elevator company Kone Inc. $6.65 million. The B.C. Rapid Transit Co. (BCRTC) rail division paid $1.3 million.

According to the TransLink website, the new escalators are supposed to provide smoother operation and braking for passenger safety, a variable speed option to save energy, LED step lighting and improved accessibility for maintenance so as to reduce downtime.

TransLink’s safety report does not separate onboard and off-board injuries. The customer injury rate on the Expo and Millennium lines have fluctuated above and below the rate of one customer injury claim per million boardings since 2018.

Granville Station had 4.8 million boardings in 2022 and was the fifth busiest station of the year. TransLink reported 83 million riders in 2022 on the two lines. In 2019, before the pandemic, it was 115 million.

BCRTC president Sany Zein’s report to the Sept. 27 TransLink board meeting said that during the second quarter of 2023, there were 27 incidents reported by customers. Over half were slips, trips and falls on “elevating devices.”

Vancouver public transit watchdog Nathan Davidowicz, who publishes the weekly Alternative Buzzer newsletter, said there are too many injuries to passengers and staff. He said projects like the escalator replacement take too long and rely on consultants, rather than staff. TransLink would be better off in the long run, he said, if it were absorbed by government.

“It’s the same model as BC Ferries and now the government is realizing that model is bad,” he said. “They carry 10 times more passengers than BC Ferries.”

Last year, TransLink reported 194 million journeys, while BC Ferries carried 21.6 million passengers.