Delays on West Coast train

Rail president hands out coffee vouchers to train travellers.

Delays due to the work caused the West Coast Express train’s on-time performance rating to drop to 87 per cent in January

CP Rail is in the middle of a major project involving replacement of its steel rails and wooden ties along its line from Vancouver to Pitt Meadows.

But it didn’t tell that to those who run the West Coast Express, which uses the same railway line.

Delays due to the work caused the train’s on-time performance rating to drop to 87 per cent in January, the lowest since it began service in 1995.

Almost all delays to West Coast Express service in the past three months have been CP related, B.C. Rapid Transit Company president Doug Kelsey said in a letter to Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read.

“WCE was not informed about the schedule for this work, but has recently learned that it will continue into April.”

Commuters, though, aren’t interested in the cause of the delays, they just want to get to work on time, said Read.

One woman told her she was two hours late for work one day.

“I don’t think they necessarily care what the reasons are. They rely on service to get work every morning and they need to trust that the services are reliable.

To smooth over rough feelings, Doug Kelsey, president of the B.C. Rapid Transit Company, handed out coffee vouchers Tuesday morning to commuters, while pamphlets explaining the work were put on train seats.

Kelsey told the mayor he’s been in touch with CP Rail brass and said that speeding up West Coast Express service is the top priority.

CP Rail acknowledged in a Jan. 31 release that it could have been “more forthcoming about the potential for commuter delay during this process.”

It explained that repairing the tracks requires delaying trains to create “track blocks,” which allows crews to work on a certain section of track under tight deadlines.

Most of the work is done outside of the morning and evening rush-hour commutes, when the five West Coast Express trains run.

But sometimes the work encroaches on to West Coast Express times.

One day, maintenance equipment derailed on to the tracks, blocking the track completely.

“This work, while necessary, does not always go absolutely as planned,” said CP.

“Add into the mix a number of freight trains that need to get in and out of Lower Mainland ports on these same tracks and you can start to understand the challenge.”

Work will continue for the next two and a half months.

Read said she appreciated Kelsey’s efforts, adding she’ll keep people up to date.

TransLink didn’t respond to an interview request.

Instead, it sent a copy of a letter left on the West Coast Express seats this week apologizing for the delays.

“Service was not up to our normal standard in January.

“Our senior management has been working with CP Rail to identify the cause of the disruptions and how to quickly improve service levels.”

 

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