When it comes to GO train delays, the Lakeshore line came out on top last year as the worst, according to Metrolinx.
Statistics released on Thursday by GO Transit broke down the types and amounts of delays the train service deals with annually.
The Lakeshore line, which runs west to Hamilton and east to Oshawa, experienced the worst delays of any other GO train lines in 2016.
“Last year we had difficulties, because of construction, along both Lakeshore lines,” Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins explained.
“In spite of the work that goes on down here, we don’t stop service. But you have to make adjustments and on time performance can suffer because of that.”
The previous year that distinction went to the Milton line.
But it wasn’t just Lakeshore line experiencing delays.
With 11,000 trips every week, 94 per cent of GO trains arrive within five minutes of the scheduled time. The six per cent of trains that arrive more than five minutes late added up to 47,242 minutes of delays in 2016. That’s the equivalent of just over 32 days.
Although that number may seem high, it’s down from 2015 which was 52,817 minutes.
However, it’s up from 2014 which saw 40,831 minutes of delays.
The average amount of time a train is delayed is 12 minutes.
The top reason for delays in 2016? Weather related track and signal deficiencies.
Over 800 trains were delayed last year, and 71 trains cancelled, due to weather related track and signal deficiencies – delaying commuters a total of 164 hours.
“We have thousands of signals and switches across our 500 kilometre network. They are subject to the elements and they break down. For safety reasons, that’s something that’s a real priority for us,” Aikins explained.
“Sometimes you compromise on time performance for safety and that’s not going to change. We’re always going to do that.”
Perhaps the most disturbing trend in 2016 was the increase in fatalities. Last year a record 22 fatalities were recorded – most of which were suicides.
“In 2016 it was a bad year for suicides for most rail companies (and) most transit companies … I don’t know why. Suicide is a really tragic problem that everyone has to deal with, including rail companies,” Aikins said.
Fatality investigations had a significant impact on service, delaying 329 trains and cancelling 129 in 2016. Although it was not the top reason for delays, it caused the highest average delay for transit users – adding up to 17 minutes on average per train.
“It is very traumatic for our staff, it is very difficult for our customers to go through, and some family is getting the worst news of their lives,” Aikins said.
Other reasons for delays include passenger volume, trespassers, medical emergencies and equipment related issues.
“Nuisance” alarms are another delay causing issue that Go transit deals with on a reoccurring basis. Aikins said they went down this year because of new signage posted on the train, but they do still happen.
“When people push the emergency alarms … it might only cause a 10 or 15 minute delay but it does cause delays and often it’s for kind of silly reasons. They think we have concierge on the train and ask for tips, they miss their stop, they forgot their lunch, the bathroom is out of toilet paper. So things that aren’t emergencies.”
“Some people will, believe it or not, pull the emergency break and that will cause at least a half hour delay,” Aikins continued.
And the delays are proving to be expensive for GO. Last year it forked over $1.3 million in credits to riders thanks to its 15 minutes or more delay policy. Over the last three years that number has totalled $4 million.
“Ideally we shouldn’t be giving any money back. We should be always on time and 94 per cent of GO trains and 98 per cent of UP Express trains are on time,” Aikins explained. “By industry standards we’re doing fairly well but not by our own standards. We want to do better than that.”
Over the past five years GO Transit has increased the number of trains across its system by 44 per cent. It’s annual ridership for both train and bus grew by nearly 20 million people – from 52 million to 70 million.
Metrolinx said that across the seven GO lines, they added 82 more trains, increasing the opportunity for delays.