Translink too quick to reject calls for independent investigation into double Skytrain shutdown

Skytrain Chief Operating Officer Doug Kelsey took just hours today to reject a call for an independent investigation of this week’s double Skytrain shutdown — “we know it was human error” — but he’s missing the point.

The tens of thousands of Translink system riders who had their day disrupted, or were exposed to serious safety risks while walking along elevated guideways, are entitled to a full explanation of what happened and what steps will be taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

So far, Translink has said only that “it is reviewing the details of the incident.” Will they be made public?

Human errors can be avoided. Basic problems that were highlighted by the second shutdown, including the risk to public safety resulting from the loss of the public address system, need to be confronted. This is true, as well, of the first shutdown, which has been attributed to a computer “glitch” of some description. Has it been fixed?

Saying the second shutdown was triggered by an improper switch installation, and suspending the electrician involved, hardly explains why such an error could shut down everything, including the public address system, leaving hundreds of riders to wander down elevated guideways to escape.

Nor does it clarify who, precisely, ordered the electrician to undertake the task. The Canadian Union of Public Employees has charged that the panel in question was substandard, that the task was ordered by a supervisor who knew the risks, and that the entire job should have been done after operating hours.

An independent investigation need not be lengthy, cumbersome or expensive. The Stanley Cup Riot review, for example, took about 90 days, required no special powers for the two people in charge and cost a few hundred thousand dollars.

Its 53 recommendations resulted in fundamental changes in the way various governments and agencies, including the City of Vancouver and Translink, handle major events.