The SkyTrain light rapid transit system in Vancouver, Canada, comprises 68.7km (42.7 miles) of track and 47 stations over three lines. The first of these, the Expo line, was opened in 1985 for Expo 86 and was built as a fully-automated system, mostly on elevated structures – hence the name “SkyTrain”.

Automation is achieved using the SelTrac® system from Thales (formerly Alcatel). Since the first such system was installed on the Expo line, SelTrac was also specified for the subsequent Millennium Line (13 stations opened in 2006) and the Canada Line (15 stations in 2009).

Both the Expo and the Millennium lines are operated by the British Columbia Rapid Transit Company (BCRTC) on behalf of South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority, most simply known as TransLink. BCRTC is based at its operations and maintenance centre in Burnaby, BC, where more than 630 dedicated staff work in the areas of administration, engineering, elevator and escalator maintenance, field operations, vehicle maintenance and wayside maintenance.

Evergreen success

The next stage of Vancouver’s metro expansion will be the Evergreen Line – a 10.9km extension that will have six new stations and require major upgrades to two more. As part of that project, Partnerships BC, the British Columbia project management organization, has awarded a contract to Thales to install the SelTrac Communications-based Train Control (CBTC) on the new line.

“Since Signalling the Expo Line in 1985, the first CBTC driverless system in the world, we have also applied our reliable SelTrac CBTC system to both the Millennium Line and Canada Line”, said Michael Mackenzie, vice-president and managing, Thales Canada.

“TransLink and BCRTC can pride itself on operating on one of the longest fully automated systems in the world. They are recognised world leaders in rail transit and, throughout the decades, Vancouver’s SkyTrain remains a well-respected system amongst urban rail operators globally. It continues to draw interest from operators considering implementing a driverless CBTC system”.

Thales’ CBTC system has been proven worldwide on over 55 projects to date and operates on over 1,300 km of track in major urban centres around the world carrying an estimated 3 billion passengers annually.

Docklands Jubilee

Thales’ successful SelTrac CBTC system is also in operation in the UK. It has been installed since 1994 on the Docklands Light

Railway (DLR), which reported its highest-ever passenger numbers during London 2012, up by more than 100 per cent on normal levels. Its busiest day saw more than half-a-million passengers use the service for the first time in its history and it maintained a success rate for on-time departures of better than 99 per cent throughout the Games – testament to the excellent delivery record of the Thales signalling system.

The Jubilee Line on the underground also operates using SelTrac technology, and it too has demonstrated excellent performance – it successfully transported millions of people during the Olympics and recorded three successive days of zero delays over the Games period, its biggest ever test to date.

With this successful pedigree, Thales UK will no doubt continue to propose its world-leading SelTrac technology for future signalling upgrade schemes in the urban rail environment.