Canadian Consulting Engineer

Award of Excellence: SkyTrain Expansion

October 1, 2002
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Category: Project ManagementND LEA CONSULTANTS/SNC-LAVALIN/THE RPA GROUPThe Millennium Line SkyTrain Expansion is a $1.167 billion undertaking to increase the capacity of the rapid transit system in t...

Category: Project Management


The Millennium Line SkyTrain Expansion is a $1.167 billion undertaking to increase the capacity of the rapid transit system in the Greater Vancouver Area. The expansion involves the design and construction of a 21-kilometre line, with 12 stations, connecting Vancouver with Burnaby and New Westminster to the southeast. The project is one of Canada’s largest and most complex public infrastructure developments, with construction initiated in June 1998, and the first phase completed on schedule in December 2001.

The project has four major components: the guideway, stations, electrical and mechanical systems, and trains — all of which had to be executed concurrently and under intense public scrutiny. There were numerous public and private stakeholders involved and work was subject to a rigorous public consulting process. It involved a massive, multi-disciplinary project team, and hundreds of consulting, procurement and construction contracts were developed under a variety of arrangements.

Collaborative effort

Project management was a collaborative effort between three Canadian consulting firms: ND LEA Consultants, SNC-Lavalin and the RPA Group. All three worked under the auspices of Rapid Transit Project 2000, a company specially created by the B.C. government.

Each consulting firm had specific responsibilities and tasks. ND LEA was primarily in charge of managing the fixed facilities and provided the overall project management. People from the firm coordinated work with municipalities, railways, utility companies and other third parties. They also filled key roles in the construction management of the guideways, tunnels and stations. ND LEA was also responsible for producing civil and structural engineering design standards and for overseeing their application.

SNC-Lavalin was responsible for the design management of all the electrical and mechanical systems, which included the automatic train control, power supply and distribution, track work, CCTV and communications. The firm also managed the electrical and mechanical design-build contract with Bombardier Transportation, who supplied the trains.

RPA was responsible for developing and implementing all program control services. For example, the firm managed the integration of the financial software with the project management software to form an enterprise solution. It also directed a multi-disciplinary team for budgeting, cost estimating, scheduling, procurement, contract administration, document control and risk management. It oversaw information systems and training of project staff.

Together the three firms led a project management team that reached 160 members at its peak.

Logistical challenges

One of the most critical requirements of the program was that the new line had to be constructed without disruption to traffic flows or neighbourhoods. The solution was to build it within existing corridors, mostly using elevated guideways and tunnels. Over 17 kilometres of guideway were built in 16 months using innovative truss-erected, segmental, pre-cast technology procured under a design-build contract.

To avoid interrupting passenger service while integrating the new line’s electrical and mechanical systems into the existing SkyTrain system infrastructure, a cut-over plan was developed that defined the requirements and identified necessary upgrades. The work was carried out in small, reversible steps that allowed for a fallback to the existing system while the new or upgraded systems were installed and tested. In addition, 60 new MKII SkyTrain vehicles had to be procured, each to be capable of running seamlessly alongside the existing system.

Twelve stations are along the new line, and each has to complement local neighbourhood surroundings and incorporate stringent safety and security requirements. A unique architectural form was developed for each station and community members participated in the design forums. A centralized integrated security monitoring system is being used in all the stations.

To bring order and cohesion to the massive undertaking the three firms established a comprehensive set of program polices and procedures, including a project definition plan, and project management procedures manual. The first established the vision and objectives of the program, and the second established the roles and responsibilities of all the project team members and stakeholders, as well as procedures for such aspects as communications, reporting, approvals, health and safety, etc. The selective use of design-build contracts helped shorten the schedule and reduce the risk, as did the bundling of electrical and mechanical systems contracts.

Budgeted costs for the design and construction of the Millennium Line can be broken into several components: Fixed facilities (guideways, tunnels and stations) $417 million; electrical and mechanical systems $258 million; trains $110 million; property acquisition $47 million; soft costs $240 million; contingencies $93 million. The first phase was completed on schedule and on budget in December 2001. The entire program will be completed under budget at a cost of $55 million per kilometre (all inclusive). CCE

Name of project: Millennium Line SkyTrain Expansion Phase I

Award winning firms (project management consultants): ND LEA Consultants, Vancouver (John Eastman, P.Eng., Meiric Preece, P.Eng., Bill MacKenzie, P.Eng.). SNC-Lavalin, Vancouver (Jim Burke, P.Eng., Bob Bowman). The RPA Group, Vancouver (Dave Walker)

Owner-client: Rapid Transit Project 2000


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