Metro Morning

Monday's GO train delays: president explains what happened

GO Transit president Greg Percy apologizes and admits passengers were let down after a broken switch led to widespread delays for GO train riders during Monday's morning commute.

Broken switch caused cancellations and hours-long delays for some passengers

A faulty switch on the Lakeshore East line caused widespread delays and a few cancellations to GO service during Monday's morning commute. (CBC)

How is it that a single broken railway switch caused delays for an estimated 10,000 GO train commuters on Monday morning?

GO Transit president Greg Percy appeared on CBC Radio's Metro Morning Tuesday, one day after a switch failure on the Lakeshore East line caused hours-long delays and cancellations that had passengers fuming during the morning commute.

Some passengers waited on stationary trains for hours. Others stood on platforms waiting for trains that never came. Many took to Twitter to vent while they waited out the delay. 

"I don't blame [passengers] one iota about being upset, about being late getting to work" Percy told host Matt Galloway in an interview this morning. "We all have commitments ... and when you're late for those, absolutely you should get upset."

If you ride the GO Train, you might have been late for work yesterday, or maybe you just gave up and went back home. Matt Galloway spoke with Greg Percy. He is the President of GO Transit. 8:17

Percy said the delays were caused by the failure of a single switch — a piece of track with moveable points that allows trains to transfer from one line to another. There are hundreds of switches on GO's network but the one that seized and later broke Monday is located in a critical spot, near where there Lakeshore East and Stouffville corridors come together. 

"It couldn't have happened in a worse place," said Percy. The switch failed at around 6 a.m., before the heaviest rush-hour traffic, but it meant that trains east of the switch on two lines had to wait in place as repair crews worked. Some trains had to head back to stations, others were cancelled. It wasn't long before the delay had a "cascading effect," leading to delays on the busy Lakeshore West corridor. 

Switch failure was not weather-related

​Early in the day on Monday, a Metrolinx spokesperson said the switch failure was weather related. Percy, however, said weather was not a factor and that the switch didn't freeze. 

"It's not something you can see coming, there's a lot of moving parts in any given switch and one of those parts seized," he said. 

Percy said repair crews were at the site quickly but it was "a complicated fix" that took considerable time as one train after another stacked up, unable to pass the trouble spot.

"There are so many trains on that corridor, they queue up very quickly," he said.

Percy said GO operates more than 7,000 train tips per month and that 95 per cent operated within five minutes of their scheduled time in October, and 94 per cent in September. 

"Those numbers can always improve, but nevertheless there are delays," he said. "We need to keep improving to give [passengers] that reliability and we let them down yesterday morning on the Lakeshore East and Stouffville corridor."

Percy said customers affected by Monday's delays can get their fare reimbursed through GO's service guarantee policy. Passengers delayed by more than 15 minutes are reimbursed unless the delay is caused by factors outside GO's control, such as weather or a pedestrian accident. 

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