torstar news service
GO passengers exit a train west of the Ontario Food Terminal after a derailment of a CN train on July 14.
If you want to prepare for unusual GO Train delays, watch the thermometer. If it’s over 30 C or under –15 C, get ready for problems with trains and tracks. It looks like the summer heat has passed us by, which is good news for GO’s aging locomotives and rail cars.
Earlier this month, temperatures soared and many trains were cancelled or delayed. On July 14, the rail network was effectively paralyzed when a CN train derailed, trapping GO trains in their storage yard.
Suddenly, thousands of riders had to find alternate ways home — it would be hours before service was fully restored. GO buses simply couldn’t accommodate the demand — and neither could GO Transit’s website as people struggled to get news. One upside is that many customers subsequently signed up for GO’s e-mail update service.
Officials admit that many lessons have been learned, and I trust that GO’s board will examine the transit agency’s crisis protocols at next week’s meeting. Both the derailment and the illegal TTC strike in May prove that we in Toronto should heed the same warning that many U.S. commuters have been hearing: Have a contingency plan.
Just as auto owners must prepare for a breakdown, transit users need to contemplate what they would do in case an emergency blocks their way home.
The GTA’s rail lines have been busy with construction and increased freight trains, but we haven’t had as many problems from summer temperatures as the States, where many tracks suffered “heat kinks.”
I hear transit managers in Boston even went to commuter stations to explain to riders why delays were so widespread and train air conditioning was failing so often. In Toronto, older engines and passenger cars also lost air conditioning during the heat wave.
Even if the heat does not return, be prepared for surprises. GO regulars should stay on guard for track changes at Union Station, even if you’ve been boarding the same train at the same spot for years. And despite the allure of getting a seat on board, consider waiting in the air-conditioned concourse until your track is announced.
I’m not making excuses for GO —new trains should have been ordered sooner, and communications upgrades seem to be taking a long time. However, system improvements are coming, if slowly. The website www.gotransit.comhas finally been updated with useful construction information.
I suggest you read the “GO Grows” pages, and then ask your member of provincial parliament whether they think GO is growing fast enough.