Details made public about near disaster in Toronto subway tunnels

A subway train passed a red signal without permission and nearly collided with a northbound train in June 2020

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One metre closer and Toronto would have witnessed one of the city’s worst subway disasters.

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The TTC made public details about a June 2020 near miss that nearly saw two subway trains collide on Line 1 — one that only came to light after details of the incident were leaked to a media outlet last month.

The incident began after 114Run, a northbound train stopped at St. Andrew Station, held at the platform for a passenger emergency alarm.

That prompted transit control to move 123Run, a southbound train stopped at Osgoode Station, into a “pocket track” between stations and remain there until it was instructed to proceed as a northbound train.

‘”This is typical during subway delays, and is by no means extraordinary,” said TTC COO Jim Ross.

TTC subway rail traffic control display depicting Train 123, depicted as a yellow rectangle, stopped at the southbound platform of Osgoode Station while 114, the white rectangle, stopped at the northbound platform of St. Andrew Station, holds for a passenger alarm on June 12, 2020.
TTC subway rail traffic control display depicting Train 123, depicted as a yellow rectangle, stopped at the southbound platform of Osgoode Station while 114, the white rectangle, stopped at the northbound platform of St. Andrew Station, holds for a passenger alarm on June 12, 2020. Photo by Handout /TTC

Radio recordings were played alongside stills from the transit control dispatcher’s display — showing occupied tracks, signal indications, and track switch position.

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The 114 train — by then clear of its emergency — was given a clear signal to proceed northbound into Osgoode station.

“The control centre believes 123Run are holding on the pocket track until they receive a signal to depart, as was instructed,” Ross said.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Video shows 123 instead proceeding towards the northbound track just as 114 passed by, avoiding collision by less than a metre.

Ross confirmed the pocket track signal was red, and 123 didn’t move far enough back to see the signal.

Track occupancy diagram showing train 123 passing a red signal and nearly colliding with train 114 as it enters Osgoode Station in June 2020.
Track occupancy diagram showing train 123 passing a red signal and nearly colliding with train 114 as it enters Osgoode Station in June 2020. Photo by Handout /TTC

“123 in the Osgoode pocket, you haven’t moved, right?” the dispatcher asks repeatedly over the radio, getting no response.

“We did start to move, but there was a train coming next to us,” the operator finally responds, adding he couldn’t see the signal but proceeded once the track switch moved from southbound to northbound.

Questions surrounding why TTC commissioners first read about the near-miss in a newspaper account were addressed via an in-camera motion passed in June directing management to inform the board directly after such incidents occur.

“I don’t want to ever be in the situation again that I’m hearing about it from the public first,” Commissioner Shelley Carroll said.

A final report is expected early next year.

bpassifiume@postmedia.com
On Twitter: @bryanpassifiume

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