This spring, new crews will begin taking over the operation of all GO trains that run on CN railroad tracks. In a five-year contract with the transit agency, worldwide transportation firm Bombardier will replace CN engineers and conductors with its own employees on six of GO’s seven train routes. Bombardier also builds GO rail cars and maintains the agency’s trains.
A reader, who has asked to be identified simply as a concerned retired engineer,
e-mailed me about the new crewing contract. Here’s some of what he wrote: “GO Transit believes that by replacing existing experienced railway operating employees (i.e. locomotive engineers and conductors) with Bombardier-supplied train operators this will improve service, improve on-time performance and save money.
“To have inexperienced people running high-speed GO trains with hundreds of passengers during peak hours is unsafe and unacceptable.”
The reader adds, “Anyone familiar with rail operations knows that the most important aspect of railroading is experience; knowledge of territory, knowledge of operating rules and proper training. This takes years and years of actual railroading experience to achieve.”
Tina Bouchard, spokesperson for Transport Canada — the federal ministry that oversees railways — states, “The crews used by third party contractors must meet all regulatory requirements, as well as the requirements of the railway whose tracks they will operate on.”
Replying to the reader’s comments, GO spokesperson Stephanie Sorensen states, “The assumption that new ‘inexperienced’ people will be operating GO trains is incorrect. Just as CN currently has a blend of long-service employees and relatively new hires, Bombardier will also be hiring employees with a range of experience.”
She tells In Transit, “Trains will continue to have a three-person crew. Each GO train will have two commuter train operators, both capable of driving the train, who will concentrate on the operation of the train. The customer service ambassador will concentrate on customer service.”
GO managing director Gary McNeil says, “We’re not going to go out with a contract that would jeopardize safety of either the crews or our customers — and CN is exactly the same, and so is Transport Canada and all of our partners.”
He continues, “Bombardier knows they’ve got to reach certification requirements, and they have a very, very extensive training program — similar to a training program which is undertaken in the United States for commuter rail operations.”
Says GO’s McNeil, “From our perspective these crews will be trained, they will be certified very intensively by CN — CN doesn’t want anything to happen either — and it will be undertaken in a way that meets all the regulatory requirements as well as our customers’ needs.”
A Bombardier official deferred comment in favour of GO, citing a preference by the transit agency to respond “directly” to In Transit.