SkyTrain's Expo Line was shut down for nearly six hours on Saturday

Leaves fingered for long SkyTrain shutdown

Six-hour halt blamed on fallout from 'unusual' storm

An unusually heavy build-up of leaves on the SkyTrain tracks was to blame for a lengthy disruption of the rapid transit system Nov. 12, TransLink officials say.

The nearly six-hour shutdown of the Expo Line last Saturday happened after an intense storm the night before brought rain, hail and wind gusts of up to 100 kilometres an hour, disrupting ferry service and sending leaves and other debris into the air.

Fred Cummings, president of TransLink’s SkyTrain subsidiary, said trains turned leaves in the tracks into an oily paste that caused some SkyTrain cars to skid, prompting trains to stop as a safety precaution.

“While leaves on the tracks have caused minor SkyTrain service disruptions in the past, this is the first time in our nearly 26-year history a build-up of leaves has caused a major service disruption,” he said.

Cummings said the high winds and heavy rains were an “unusual combination of events” that left soaking masses of leaves on SkyTrain wheel assemblies.

“We would like to apologize to our passengers for the service disruption and assure them that we will be identifying changes to how we respond to a major wind event to better address any issues that may arise, before they become a major service issue,” Cummings said.

All safety systems performed normally and appropriately, he said.

A bus bridge carried passengers trying to take SkyTrain between Surrey and New Westminster and also between Commercial-Broadway and downtown Vancouver.

The Millennium Line between VCC-Clark and Sapperton stations ran normally.