As rail-commuter fury mounts in the city about overcrowding, schedule changes, Ford government announces extra capacity on packed GO line
Amid a commuter backlash and a plea from the mayor and opposition politicians, the PC government has added additional capacity to the Kitchener GO train line after changes to scheduling that just came into effect led to serious overcrowding and long delays on the route.
In a statement released on Facebook Thursday afternoon, Brampton West MPP Amarjot Sandhu (PC) says he was shocked by the outcome of the Kitchener line changes announced in December.
“Some confusion when scheduling changes is always expected, but I was surprised by how much backlog this schedule change created for people trying to get home to Brampton,” he said.
The service changes have led to dangerously overcrowded platforms and passenger cars, many riders are complaining.
In response, Sandhu says, two additional cars have been added to the 5:02 p.m. train to handle the additional capacity. Additional customer service and transit safety staff have also been assigned to assist passengers. But the band-aid solution likely won’t ease the anger of Brampton commuters who for years have been calling for a real solution: all-day, two-way GO service for the city.
Those dreams were dashed in December when the Ford government scrapped more than a year of work toward a freight train bypass that had been launched by the previous Liberal government with the aim of eventually freeing up the corridor for commuter trains and getting all-day, two-way service in the booming city.
Instead, commuters were left with the new plan and its service modifications, which had already angered many riders even before the new schedule began. After the launch this week, the ensuing chaos created a firestorm for local and provincial politicians dealing with furious commuters who had been pushed beyond their breaking point.
Additional onboarding before trains get to Brampton, the result of the schedule changes, has made things even worse.
On social media, images of packed cars and overflowing platforms have been shared thousands of times. City hall was inundated with complaints, prompting Mayor Patrick Brown to send a letter to the province Thursday morning, demanding relief. Later in the day, the extra cars for the line were announced.
Originally, express trains departed from Union at 4:50 p.m., 5:02 p.m. and 5:20 p.m.; they have now been altered to leave at 4:35 p.m., 5:02 p.m. and 5:27 p.m. The elimination of the 4:50 p.m. train, which multiplied riders trying to get on the 5:02 p.m. train, has drawn the most ire from commuters.
“I will continue to monitor the situation in the coming weeks, and I’d like to thank everyone for keeping us posted,” Sandhu wrote in his statement Thursday afternoon. “If these changes aren’t an improvement, please let me know so I can continue to advocate on your behalf.”
People were quick to let him know it was too little, too late.
“This is not even a band-aid on a serious situation,” commented one user. “Can no one understand that folks have to get home for daycare pick-ups, elder care and other life demands?”
“Is that it? Come catch the train with us and wake up,” another wrote.
Brown met with commuters in Brampton after sending his letter to Ontario Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek, calling for immediate relief after the ill-informed changes made to the Kitchener line service.
Initially, the announcement was billed as additional train service for commuters along the Kitchener corridor, with an extra trip scheduled between Union and Kitchener in both the morning and evening peak periods.
“Brampton GO train passengers are very upset with the overcrowded trains, the timing of the departures and the delays in service,” Brown states in his letter to Yurek. “I believe you made these decisions without consulting Brampton passengers.”
A commuter picture posted on Twitter.
Brown requested that the government reconsider the cancelled express train and also add more coaches on existing trains to meet passenger demand, a request that appears to have been met, in part, by the end of the day.
Brown wasn't the only politician complaining. Responding to the complaints on social media, a joint statement by MPPs from Kitchener, Waterloo and Brampton also accused the government of only making things worse for commuters.
“The Ford government cancelled the vital 4:50 express GO train along the Kitchener line and removed carriages from trains that were already packed, resulting in routine delays, and crushing, dangerous levels of overcrowding,” the statement reads. ”Commuters from Kitchener, Waterloo and Brampton deserve better. That’s why the NDP is calling on Doug Ford to fix the problem he made worse by immediately reinstating the 4:50 express GO train along the Kitchener line.”
The social media outrage drew a response from Yurek, who in a statement on Wednesday said the government would be looking into the issue in the “coming weeks.”
“The crowding on the trains as a result of our expanded service has proven how much of a demand there is for more service," he said. "My caucus colleagues and commuters have raised their concerns over the crowding and I took their concerns very seriously. I have directed Metrolinx to look at all options to resolve the issue of overcrowding within the coming weeks. Safety is of the utmost concern, and under my direction, Metrolinx is already acting to manage crowding by sending transit safety officers to affected stations.”
The Pointer was told that some commuters had their cars towed from around the downtown GO station because delays kept them from getting in before parking had expired, adding insult to injury for many.
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