Thousands of GO train customers were impacted this past weekend (Oct. 30 and 31) because of a major track issue on the Lakeshore West Line. Metrolinx News explains what happened, how it was fixed, and why customer safety is the key to keeping people moving.
There is never a good time to shutdown the busiest commuter rail line in the country.
This past Saturday (Oct. 30) was particularly rough with the combination of Halloween festivities, sporting events, and concerts all drawing people to downtown Toronto.
So, what happened? During a routine track inspection, GO Transit crews discovered a section of the tracks between Port Credit and Clarkson GO stations was unstable, so much so that trains could no longer pass through the area safely.
The transit agency made the difficult decision to shut down that section of track.
Making the fix
Behind the scenes, transit experts at Metrolinx drew up a plan to keep people moving and got started immediately on the repairs. Extra GO buses were called in to shuttle people between Port Credit and Clarkson, and Lakeshore West train service was reduced to hourly to avoid further delays.
The team initially estimated it could take up to 24 hours to complete the repairs but, crews worked through the night – during the rain – on Saturday to get the repairs done as quickly as possible, in hopes of reducing the impact to people on Sunday.
Once the initial repairs were made, a large machine known as a DynaCAT was brought in to smooth and stabilize the tracks. Finally, GO had to run a test train over the repaired section at slow speeds to make sure everything was good to go.
In the end, the teams got the job done in time for regular GO train service to resume on Sunday morning.
Letting people know
While one team was hustling to get the repairs done, Metrolinx was also working to let customers know about the disruption.
The transit agency sent out On the GO alerts to customers via email and text message. The media relations team also got the word out to local media in hopes of reaching customers before they left the house that night.
Metrolinx also pushed out information over social media, providing updates on the repairs as they came in.
Extra transit staff were also on hand at Port Credit and Clarkson GO to make sure people knew what was going on and to help get them from the bus to the train and vice versa.
Safety during inclement weather
After heavy rains it is important to monitor the conditions of tracks, as flooding can erode the integrity of the track bed and potentially create unsafe conditions for trains. That’s how crews found the instability in this instance.
How does Metrolinx keep an eye on all that track? The transit agency has contractors that drive along the GO tracks in special pick-up trucks with retractable train wheels (known as high rail vehicles), as well as old-fashioned foot patrols.
Metrolinx officials can’t say definitively the tracks became unstable because of the recent rainstorms but are confident it may have contributed to the issue.
Transit officials say this kind of track problem is rare, and in the end, it came down to putting customer safety ahead of everything else.
And if you need guidance in the future in keeping track of changes on GO, or planning a journey, just go here.
Story by Scott Money, Metrolinx News Editorial team