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First new MK III SkyTrain hits the track, but others running months late

Commuters riding the Expo or Millennium Line this week may catch a glimpse of the first of 56 new Mark III SkyTrain cars destined for Metro Vancouver, but they won’t be able to board just yet.

The new, longer, four-car train is running during non-peak hours as a part of Phase 2 of its testing.

It includes more room for standing passengers, wheelchairs and bikes, and is fully articulated — meaning passengers can walk the train from one end to the other.

The trains will be stopping at stations along the lines, but passengers won’t be allowed onboard — the doorways will be taped off, and transit workers will ride the trains to ensure they remain empty.

A second, new Mark III train arrived in Burnaby last month where it is undergoing Phase 1 of its testing, which involves running 80 kilometres on tracks during non-service hours.

Train two pictured on a track in Burnaby.

TransLink says 24 more SkyTrain cars are due early next year — but officials admit they’re running behind.

At Thursday’s TransLink Board meeting, BC Rapid Transit Corporation (BCRTC) interim president and general manager said the cars are running two to three months behind schedule.

“That’s a Bombardier issue, and we’ve been working with them on that. In fact, we’re hopeful that by the time we come to train 14, we’re going to have that reduced quite a bit,” he said.

“They put a lot of quality assurance in place to make sure there’s not going to be delays along this testing and commissioning.”

Part of Bombardier’s plan to cut down on delays is 5,000 kilometres of testing on a track in Kingston, Ont., so that there are fewer surprises when the trains arrive in B.C.

Another 28 SkyTrain cars are slated for delivery by the end of next year.

Train one arrives in Burnaby on a flatbed truck.

BCRTC said the new trains will be inserted into regular service once they’ve completed a final, third phase of testing, which involves carrying passengers and testing for faults.

It says once four of the new trains are in full service, TransLink will begin adjusting scheduling, with new schedules rolled out in April, September and December.

When all the trains are on track by the end of next year, BCRTC says it will result in a 14 per cent increase in capacity.

The new cars cost $298 million and are part of Phase 1 of TransLink’s 10-year vision on transit and transportation. Phase 1 also included $88 million for 24 new Canada Line cars due by 2020.

Phase 2 will include another 108 new SkyTrain cars and an additional 95 cars to replace aging parts of the fleet.

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