Squealing SkyTrain upsets West End residents

Although Elmer Rudolph lives at least eight blocks away from the SkyTrain line, the West End Residents Association president can hear the annoying squealing of wheels as the trains head down the hill from the 22nd Street station toward the New Westminster station if he has his windows open.

"I know many neighbours who live closer and it's much more bothersome to them," said Rudolph.

The annoyance was a hot topic at the WERA meeting last Tuesday and the association voted to write city council to get it involved in fixing the problem. Rudolph said the association believes the noise could be reduced with more maintenance or track replacement.

"We said this wasn't good enough and whatever needed to be done should be done to eliminate this squealing of the wheels," said Rudolph.

A while back, he said, TransLink did some track grinding following a complaint and it was quiet for two or three weeks, but it returned.

"It just seems they're reluctant to do the necessary maintenance to keep the things quiet. The TransLink person said 'there's only so much we can do,’" said Rudolph. "That implies to me there's another solution [such as replacing the tracks]."

Rudolph said when SkyTrain was launched in 1986 there was some noise for the first few months but after some grinding and maintenance it was reduced considerably.

"Apparently in the last couple of years residents have noticed there doesn't seem to be the same level of maintenance on those tracks, and those wheels and those trains," said Rudolph. "We're trying to get a dialogue going with city council to see if they can have some influence on SkyTrain."

TransLink spokesman Drew Snider said it has received only one complaint in the last six months about noise on the tracks in that area.

"Every week we run a specially fitted train over the track to check noise levels," said Snider in an email. "If we find spots where the noise exceeds standards we go in and grind the rails to clear the corrugation. We've checked the noise level charts for that stretch between 22nd Street Station and New West and found only a couple of 'spikes' in the sound level. So next week, we'll be sending a crew down to grind those particular parts."

Snider said TransLink replaced the rails in that stretch during the past five years at a cost of more than $5.5 million.

"It is, in fact, one of the better areas on the SkyTrain system," said Snider. "There has been no decline in the maintenance in that stretch."

Snider said in that particular area, upwards of 750 trains go by each weekday and while TransLink constantly monitors the noise to minimize it, "we can't eliminate it."

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