The Educational Railroading Conference Leader Since 1994


2017 Rail Transit Session


SkyTrain: Wheel/Rail Profile Design and Maintenance to Meet a State of Good Repair

Matt Doyle

Matt Doyle
SkyTrain BCRTC

BCRTC “SkyTrain” has embarked on an ambitious program to define and optimize its rail maintenance program. The SkyTrain system is unique among North American rail transit systems in that vehicles incorporate Linear Induction Motors, fully automated operation, steerable bogies and light axle weights. When the system was designed, it was thought to be a “maintenance-free” system, but issues arose fairly quickly. Noise and ride-quality issues with the original fleet were addressed through aggressive Engineering. Rail grinding was done to address noise-related issues. The introduction of a new vehicle and subsequent expansions of the fleet did not go through the same Engineering effort, however, so a decision was made in 2013 to review the rail and wheel profiles to optimize the system. Implementing the new rail profiles was a challenge, but the entire railway was eventually ground to the new profile.

Issues with ride quality and rail defects were also addressed. Rail corrugation remains an issue, however. The development of an optimized rail maintenance program, which includes rail grinding, along with further review of rail and wheel profiles and increased use of friction modifiers are scheduled for 2017.

Overall efforts to optimize wheel and rail performance on the system are part of SkyTrain’s ongoing effort to reach and maintain a state of good repair.