Friday, January 24, 2014

Maybe I should start a weekly segment called, "What does Bill say?" Because we need to know.

Tuesday night's train fight involving a disabled tractor trailer and my rant the next day caused quite a stir among those in the rail safety industry and those who enforce rail passenger safety. Some comments that were left on that post were also factually incorrect. I have left the original comments visible but have disabled further commenting.

I was in the midst of crafting a letter to GO Transit and Metrolinx about my concerns re: catastrophic event, terrorist hijacking, natural disaster and another flood, and when I as a passenger can leave a train on my own authority, when this email arrived:
to: ""
date: Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 3:21 PM
subject: GO Transit and Responding to Emergencies
Good afternoon

I read with interest a post on your blog with respect to a recent incident involving a collision between a GO train and a truck.   I wanted to take the opportunity to reinforce the safety of our system and the fact we take our customers safety very seriously by offering the following:

·         In the case of the recent Milton train collision – the evacuation involved approximately 840 customers on the train when the collision took place.  The evacuation of customers from the train onto awaiting buses was slow largely due to the weather and debris from the incident.   On average, buses hold 60 passengers so you can imagine the number of buses and drivers this requires.
·         It’s important to note, that evacuation plans are always decided with the primary objective of keeping people as safe as possible.  During the entire incident including the evacuation process numerous messages to our customers were made and many staff including emergency responders assisted in the evacuation process.  Customers on board were very patient and understanding.  We received positive comments from customers on the train subsequent to this incident on how it was handled.
·         As with each incident we assess and adjust our response plans and processes to the lessons we have learned.  Communication is one of the many key elements to any response plan.  We have made great strides in improvements in providing regular and current updates to those customers on board in an incident train as well as providing regular updates using a wide variety of social media and other communication methods to our customers when service is disrupted and delayed.    
·         Several comments on the recent blog encourage people to simply pull the doors and self-evacuate from the train when there is a delay.  This is simply bad advice and can actually lead to serious injury or death.  The railway environment can pose risks to those who are not trained to recognize the hazards.  Multiple tracks with live rail traffic, inclement weather, low or poor visibility conditions combined with uneven track bed surfaces can pose risks.  This is why emergency responders and GO staff who are trained will assist and oversee a controlled evacuation as safety will always be the number one priority.
·         We have experienced a small number of incidents when people have taken it upon themselves to leave a train only to end up needing help as they have placed themselves needlessly in jeopardy.  This also requires responders to deviate from the larger scene and send much needed resources elsewhere to rescue or assist that person.
·         Our website contains information to our customers on our processes and plans

Bill Grodzinski
Director, Safety and Security
GO Transit, A Division of METROLINX
20 Bay St.,
Toronto, Ontario
M5J 2W3


FRED said...

Well... impressive.
But, you know you've struck a nerve when...

Anonymous said...

I'm glad Bill wrote you. What you did was ignorant and allowing people to commment and post misinformation was also legally wrong. You're lucky GO didn't sue you and instead gave you a chance

Anonymous said...

Good guy Bill.

Squiggles said...

Ok. That was a very well thought out response. To 1 (ONE) incident. There was no further information about what to do in a general emergency, what constitutes a general emergency and what the general plan would be. Take for instance the Richmond Hill flood last summer. That was not handled well from everything I heard and read about it.

As well, from normal delays and such, their communication is crap. It is slightly better, but I know I have sat on the train, while stopped, without an announcement or text or email for 10+ mins. That is not keeping people informed. I can only imagine what it would be like to be stuck on a disabled train without word.

I think he and his team need to think and let the everyday commuter know what these plans are. Because 9 times out of 10 it is like they are pulling information out of their backsides as the issue happens. I know the boondoggle of the LSE last month and back in the fall with the gas leak was not handled as well as could be. I know that because at some point in evening, no further emails happened, even after they partially opened the tracks to rail traffic around 7pm.

Anonymous said...

my question is...why the heck did it take them so long to help the Richmond Hill passengers?

mike f. said...

Um, sue for what? Cindy isn't legally responsible for public opinion. Second, she didn't provide any advice. Did you even read the original post?
Thank you Bill for sending this over.

C.J. Smith said...

One thing at a time! Let's start here. I am so not done.

C.J. Smith said...

It was not ignorant of me to ask the questions that I did.

Anonymous said...


you have no idea how much i freak out when i hear the word thunderstorm warming since the flooded train incident. For about 2 months after the flooding, i carried an emergency pack with me, consists of granola bars, chocolate, a portable charger and i grab a water with me when i leave work just to be safe.

i got my info that day from families/friends/co-workers texting me...and through people checking social media...

It was probably 15min before the first announcement came that there's flooding on the tracks ahead and they were trying to head back to Union. It took them over 30min to turn the train around (I still don't get why it took them so long)and by the time the train was moving, the whole track got flooded and we were later informed that we are stuck.

my dad and my hubby drove to downtown and thought maybe they can pick me up somewhere. when they got to Union Station and asked about that's the news on the flooded train, people had no idea there that there was a train sitting on a flooded track with 1500 people on it. they had to point to the TV to show them the news! that's some really good communication there from front line workers...

Anonymous said...

"We have experienced a small number of incidents when people have taken it upon themselves to leave a train only to end up needing help as they have placed themselves needlessly in jeopardy. This also requires responders to deviate from the larger scene and send much needed resources elsewhere to rescue or assist that person."

I guess bill didn't watch the TV the night of the flooding. a police truck carrying 2 banada boats was trying to drive through the flooded area, only to be carried away by the current and had to climb through the roof and to be rescued by others.

April said...

Anon@9:46's comments bring up a point. We don't pack a lunch for GO travel. In the sincerest hope that Mr. Grodzinski reads these responses . . .

Why doesn't GO Transit carry glucose pills in their first aid kits? I have emailed GO Transit about this and the response I received was 'we don't and we have no plans to do so'.

Glucose pills are fairly inexpensive and they aren't medication so carrying them in GO first aid kits and distributing them to passengers if needed would not put GO at risk of liability. Basic first aid training says that you give a diabetic sugar.

When we have seen so many exceptionally lengthy delays this year, I need to ask again. Why won't GO stock these in their first aid kits?

If a diabetic is trapped on the train for hours on end, their blood sugar could drop dangerously low. If they are caught without anything to eat or drink, and no glucose tablets on their person, it could become a major medical emergency that could possibly lead to death.

My daughter-in-law had just such a problem. The CSA was kind enough to give her cookies out of his own personal lunch. Lucky for her.

C.J. Smith said...

Guys. Whoah.
Look, more investigative journalism is needed and so many questions still need answers.
At least Bill took the time. He didn't have to but he did.
That counts for something.
No need to attack his character or make it personal, okay?

Anonymous said...


We actually had someone on our flooded train that day that was diabetic. Someone gave him a cookie and some mints and he was ok.

I had a bottle of water i grabbed on my way out from Work and shared it around with people on that hot and humid day. Others shared their cookies and limited food supplies with people around them just to get by.

MATT said...

I'm type-1 diabetic, and I carry a bottle of fruit juice with me in my bag at all times, just in case there's a delay. I have blacked out from hypoglycaemia before, and have a 7-staple scar on the back of my head to remind me that it's nobody's problem but my own to make sure I have enough sugar at my disposal.

There have even been times when the train wasn't delayed, but my sugar dropped; I need to have that fruit juice on-hand because it's not like there's a convenience store on the train (and when my sugar is that low, exiting a train at an unfamiliar place in search of a chocolate bar or can of coke is not wise).

I guess my point is that while having glucose pills or sharing food is a nice idea, diabetics like myself should take precautions to ensure that they don't need to rely on hopes and prayers in a hypoglycemic episode.

April said...

And I agree with that Matt. We all need to be responsible for our own health and well-being. If you are diabetic, you know you should have these things.

My DIL does carry juice with her at all times (and now has a back up supply of glucose tablets). But crap happens and we all forget, or maybe you already drank the juice (that flood delay was super long).

It is such a simple thing for GO to have glucose pills.

The CSA in question was rewarded with a huge tin of homemade cookies.

Anonymous said...

Gee, Mr. Grodzinski. His responses dont provide any reassurances.

Yes, rail tracks next to the affected train are dangerous . What he is really saying that to leave the evacuation to the professionals. What typical BS.

So what happens if there was a deranged man with a knife on the train. Wouldn't you want passengers out as quickly as possible. Every situation is different and a one-size fits all policy doesn't work for everything.

Ok what about, Flight 93 on 9/11. Im sure we were taught not to engage the passengers. Ok, if that happened then the whitehouse or capital building would have been hit. It was the passengers who used their best judgement and mitigated the disaster from unfolding any further.

I say its Mr Grodzinski who needs to reevaulate Metrolinx's safety policy.

Anonymous said...

*whoops to my previous post, change the word "passengers" to "hijackers" on the 2nd last paragraph