Toronto’s transit agency is considering decommissioning an east-end rail line months earlier than planned after a derailment left several passengers injured.
The Toronto Transit Commission said an investigation is under way after the rear car of a train on the Scarborough Rapid Transit system separated from the rest of the train on Monday evening and derailed at Ellesmere Station. Five people were taken to hospital with minor injuries.
The rail line – which runs trains that have been in service 10 years past their design life – is scheduled for decommission in November. Buses are meant to replace the line until the Scarborough Subway Extension is opened by the province in 2030.
The TTC said Tuesday that early decommissioning of the rail line is a possibility.
“Re-opening the SRT will be informed by the investigation,” the agency wrote in a statement. “Early decommissioning is on the table.”
The TTC said about 40 buses are currently replacing the Scarborough Rapid Transit line – also known as Line 3 – during rush hours as the investigation into the derailment takes place.
“External reviewers coming in to assist,” the agency wrote on Twitter. “But this could be several days at minimum so we have staff on scene to assist with options.”
About 44 people on board the derailed train car were evacuated, and 20 to 30 other passengers from the remainder of the train were able to exit themselves and walk down the tracks, authorities said.
Shelagh Pizey-Allen, a spokeswoman for the transit users advocacy group TTCRiders, said the derailment was “unthinkable” for riders who use the transit service daily.
“I was very shocked and angry that this kind of accident happened on the TTC because it could have been much worse,” she said.
“If it had happened further down the track and the train had been going faster, if it happened on a portion of the RT that was elevated, it could have been fatal.”
Transit riders want to see an independent and thorough investigation provide answers about how and why the derailment happened, Ms. Pizey-Allen said.
Line 3 is a 6.4-kilometre intermediate capacity rapid transit line with six stations that opened in 1985, according to the TTC’s website.
University of Toronto engineering professor Amer Shalaby said the current Scarborough Rapid Transit line has been running much longer than what it was designed for.
“We have waited far too long and debated too much on how and what should replace the Scarborough RT,” he wrote in an e-mailed statement.
“I guess what happened is a lesson on the risks associated with inefficient decision making for our strategic transit projects.”
Eric Miller, a civil engineering professor at the University of Toronto, said Scarborough transit riders deserve better.
“The politicians have done nothing but fight for the last 13 years over what we should be doing. Meanwhile, the poor Scarborough RT was getting older and older,” he said.
“But the people of Scarborough need transit and so the TTC really had no choice but to try to keep it going as long as possible [until] an alternative is sorted out.”
Prof. Miller said the TTC takes safety “incredibly seriously” and hoped riders would be served by an efficient bus replacement service.
“This is tragic that the accident happened,” he said. “But it just illustrates why one has to take [the] state of good repair and maintenance of the system seriously, and the longer range planning of how to not just maintain but grow and improve the system.”
– With reports from Nairah Ahmed