Two TTC trains nearly collided last June and the details are just coming to light now

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The TTC says that a near collision between two subway trains last summer appears to have been a case “of human error” and it is promising to provide further details about the previously undisclosed incident during a board meeting scheduled for September.

It happened on Line 1 between Osgoode and St. Andrew stations just after midnight on June 12, 2020.

The Toronto Star, citing an internal presentation given to TTC staff, says that a train was headed northbound when it had to hold at St. Andrew Station due to a medical emergency.

The newspaper says that a second train that was headed southbound at Osgoode Station was then directed to unload passengers and switch to the northbound track in order to provide supplementary service.

To do so the operator had to switch to manual control in order to navigate the dead-end section of railway used to connect to the northbound track, known as a “pocket track.”

The Star report says that almost simultaneously, the medical emergency at St. Andrew Station cleared and the other train began to head northbound, putting it on a “collision course” with the train that had just departed Osgoode Station.

The newspaper, citing the internal report, says that the operator couldn’t see the other train approaching from behind as he prepared to merge onto the main northbound track but was able to slam on the breaks after being notified by a guard stationed at the rear of the train.

The TTC believes that the distance between the two trains was less than one to one-and-a-half metres at the time of the near-miss.

“Incidents like this are extremely rare. But like any incident that involves safety at the TTC, it is being treated with the seriousness it warrants – that is why we immediately launched an internal review and called for a third party external review to determine causes and to guide next steps,” TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said in a statement provided to CP24.

“Our reviews at this point indicate this was a case of human error while operating in manual mode in a section of the tunnel that was not Automatic Train Control (ATC) activated. The ATC system as a whole remains safe.”

The new $661 million ATC system is still being installed but was in place across much of Line 1 last summer, including the section of track where the near-collision occurred.

The system is supposed to prevent collision from occurring by detecting where trains are on the track and automatically keeping them at a safe distance from one another.

However, because one of the trains was in manual mode while it attempted to switch tracks it would not have been visible to the system.

In his statement, Green defended the Automatic Train Control system, noting that it is a “proven system solution that is used around the world” and can help provide a “safer service that is less susceptible to human error.”

Green would not comment on whether any disciplinary action was taken against the employees, citing a policy not to discuss personnel matters

Meanwhile, he said that the TTC’s internal review has already resulted in 31 corrective actions and recommendations “related to training, communications and operations.”

Of those, 26 are already completed or in progress.

“We will have more to say on this incident when a report is presented to the TTC Board in September,” he said.