Despite a recent announcement that TransLink was coming to Burnaby to update aging SkyTrains, no work has been done yet.
Last November, TransLink announced it would spend $37.9 million to refurbish aging SkyTrain vehicles from the Millenium and Expo Lines at a facility on 6700 Southridge Dr.
However, the Burnaby NOW has learned that TransLink has been paying $60,000 a month in rent since August 2012 – but only preparation work has been done, such as spending $309,800 to re-track 80 metres at the Operation and Maintenance Facility Two. TransLink still has to install a paint booth, as well.
“The Mark I trains are at the end of their service lives, and it’ll give them an additional 15 years,” Jiana Ling, TransLink spokesperson, told the NOW. “It was a different facility beforehand, so we needed to go in and prepare the site, build the equipment to move the trains in. Before work is done in the building, we need to make sure it’s equipped properly.
From 1988 to 2004, the property at 6700 Southridge Dr. was owned by B.C. Transit. The facility was formerly the Bombardier Centre for Advanced Transit Systems, which assembled SkyTrain cars and had tracks in place for them.
When Bombardier failed to obtain contracts to build more trains for other companies, B.C. Transit was forced to purchase the facility for no more than $17.2 million.
TransLink originally told the Burnaby NOW that the province didn’t own the site past 1999, but a Land Titles search turned up that in 2004 B.C. Transit not only owned the site, but sold it at a loss – for $8.2 million to Eric Karls.
When it was sold, the tracks were removed. Then, five months later, Karls sold the site for $13 million to Dayhu Investments, which still owns it to this day.
The facility’s first floor is also being rented out by Bombardier, which has paid $82,000 in rent a month since September 2012, according to Ling.
Despite paying about $1.14 million in rent so far, Ling maintains that TransLink has saved money because the refurbishment of old trains is cheaper than the cost of new vehicles, which would have been about $262 million.
But Bill Magri, president of the SkyTrain workers local CUPE 7000 union, said the building is empty.
“My bargaining team has been in that building in one of the offices, and there’s nothing going on, but Bombardier still has an office downstairs on the first floor,” he said. “The top floor is totally vacant and the warehouse is totally vacant.”
Magri said there’s been some work, but no construction or painting has taken place.
“What bothers me is the outright waste and the poor financial decisions made by TransLink.”
Magri said the paint booth hasn’t been constructed, and that it’s doubtful it ever will.
“They reconnected the link, they had to put in another track switch and all that because they took it out when they sold the building,” he said. “They can do what they like for the property, but make proper, sound financial decisions.”
Burnaby Coun. Colleen Jordan agreed.
“I just think they have had this project to refurbish these cars for … years,” she said. “They’ve been appearing in front of Metro Vancouver and like, get on with it. Do it.
“They’ve been paying $60,000 a month in rent since August 2012 and still haven’t done anything.”
Jordan said she also wanted to know why B.C. Transit owned the property, sold it at a loss to only now have TransLink rent out the facility.
“You’re now leasing a building to do it,” she added. “Again, it just shows the lack of foresight, the lack of management planning.”
B.C. Transit was contacted for an interview, but said since the records are 10 years old, they would require an FOI request for an off-site search and no one was able to comment, according to Maureen Sheehan, director of communications.