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Subway fire ignites union’s concern over single-operator trains


Monday’s track-level evacuation of a smoke-filled TTC subway has the city’s transit union raising the alarm over plans to expand the use of single-operator trains.

In a press release issued Monday, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113 says plans by the TTC to move ahead with eliminating subway guards presents a significant safety risk to commuters, as it represents “fewer trained workers on each train who can assist and direct riders to safety during emergencies.”

In the release, Local 113 president Carlos Santos said single-employee trains are unsafe for riders.

“It’s a no-brainer,” he said.

“Keeping two trained workers on each train is safer than having just one operator working alone at the front of a long subway train.”

On Monday, a track-level fire on Line 2 at Dundas West Station forced workers to evacuate passengers from a stranded train into the tunnel and escort them to a nearby station platform.

Currently, only trains on Lines 1 and 2 include guards — employees tasked with operating the train’s doors and signalling when the driver is safe to proceed from the platform.

Trains on Line 3 and the Scarborough RT have operated as single-person trains since they began operation.

The TTC has long stated its intention to remove guards from Line 1 trains once work installing automatic train control (ATC) is complete.

Expected to be complete by 2022, ATC will automatically control speed and separation between trains, allowing for greater capacity during peak times.

Currently, trains rely on an automatic block system to maintain separation that’s both inefficient and prevents rail traffic controllers from knowing the exact location of trains on the network.

TTC spokesman Stuart Green said single-operator trains have a proven track record both in Toronto and in cities like London and Chicago.

“The notion that it is somehow less safe is simply false,” he told the Toronto Sun.

“Under our new stations model, which is already rolling out, we have additional staff in stations to assist in emergencies.”

He also said in the rare event of tunnel emergencies like Monday’s evacuation, additional staff both within and outside of the TTC — including Toronto Fire — are dispatched to assist passengers.



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