The causes of mid-trip changes to GO train rides and the best tips on dealing with them

While rare, disruptions happen on GO Transit rail lines. And when they do, customer voyages can suddenly take a shift, as they’re asked for patience amid the change in plans. Here are some of the main causes of what rail experts call annoying ‘mid-trip modifications’, as well as some helpful tools and tactics if you’re a customer standing on a platform waiting during a delay.

Trains, like people, sometimes need to take a pause before a job is fully done.

But when this service disruption happens in the middle of a trip you’re on – leading to an unexpected change of train that the transit industry understatedly calls a ‘mid-trip modification’ – It can be an aggravation.

Two men stand on a platform.
Two employees at the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility stand outside to get some fresh air and discuss work happening inside one of the preventative maintenance bays. (Matt Llewellyn photo)

While it doesn’t happen often, we thought we should explain why it can take place, and why Metrolinx, and crews onboard these particular trains, ask for a bit of grace and patience from travellers.

Let’s break down the rare breakdowns involved in one of those mid-trip modifications and the tools available to customers.

Disrupted Service

You’re sitting in the comfort of your seat and it comes to a stop. The Customer Service Ambassador (CSA) on your train makes an announcement from the accessibility coach that the train is holding – often it is only for a moment but sometimes it can be for a prolonged period of time. The reasons for the delay could be the result of a track switch issue, a track signal issue, or mechanical issue on the train.

It also may be the result of a trespasser reported ahead on the tracks or a medical or safety emergency reported on one of the train coaches. For the safety of passengers, Metrolinx takes these things seriously, and identifying and working through the issues safely can take time.

A man works on the front of a train.
A mechanic at one of GO’s preventative maintenance bays inside the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility ensure that cables are correctly connected to the front of locomotive 630. 2020 marks a decade of service for nearly three quarters of GO’s MP40 locomotives. (Matt Llewellyn photo)

Metrolinx’s Network Operations Control and customer communications team work rapidly to identify disruptions and relay that information to customers as quickly as possible. Processes have been recently updated to communicate delays and impacts to customers more quickly on both trains and at stations. Disruptions are inconvenient for customers, but there are tools in place to help mitigate distress they may cause.

Presto Card

If you are waiting for a train that is disrupted and you need to cancel your tap on your presto card, you can do this within 45 minutes. If you have tapped on, and wish to change your method of travel, press the ‘cancel’ button on a GO or UP Express device, at the same station where you originally tapped and then tap your card again.

GO Tracker

In the event of a disruption, you can see where your train is by using GO Tracker. GO Tracker is a mobile-enabled web application that displays real-time active GO Train trip information, accessible from a computer or mobile device. GO Tracker provides  estimated departure times and platform numbers based on actual activity.

Select your GO line and station in the top-left corner, and you will see a split screen with departure information and a map displaying trains serving your station. The trip listing for your station lists all active trips serving your station, other stations served in that trip, platform information, and expected departure time. The map allows you to track the real-time movement of GO Trains. You can view all active trips or filter your view to only active trips serving your station. Click on any station for real-time service status.

Service Alerts Page

For the most up to date information during a disruption, customers are encouraged to consult the train service updates page on gotransit.com to learn about impacts to their trip.

Revenue Protection Officer Shawn Miller checks the PRESTO card of a Lakeshore West customer on their way to Union Station. Fare inspectors look a little different as a result of COVID-19, equipped with face coverings, goggles, rubber nitrile gloves and hand sanitizer for everyone’s added safety. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
Revenue Protection Officer Shawn Miller checks the PRESTO card of a Lakeshore West customer on their way to Union Station. Fare inspectors look a little different as a result of COVID-19, equipped with face coverings, goggles, rubber nitrile gloves and hand sanitizer for everyone’s added safety. (Matt Llewellyn photo)

Look-Up Tool for Departure Boards

For customers looking for updates on their departure trains departure time during a mid-trip modification, just use the look-up tool for departure boards at your station.

Stay in the know while On the GO

Sign up for On the Go alerts to get text messages or emails about delays, cancellations, new schedules, service improvements, construction and other important news that may impact a trip.

On the GO alerts can be customized to the type of information you want to receive, such as train or bus services, and preferred locations and travel times.

So while some things can sometimes disrupt a GO Transit journey, there are plenty of experts and tools to deal with the inconvenience.

Need to plan a trip on GO? Just go here.

Story by Frank Paul, Metrolinx senior team lead, Customer Communications