The ABC of Métro Service Disruptions
When an event occurs (for example, a passenger pulls the emergency brake because someone on the train is sick), the operator contacts a regulator in the control centre to determine the nature of the incident. The control centre then work out an action plan to re-establish service as promply possible.
Working with the controller in charge, they estimate the time needed to resume service. If the interruption is expected to last longer than 10 minutes, a message is sent out on our mobile platforms: Twitter, text and email alerts, website advisories and opening message for 514 STM-INFO, as well as broadcasted in métro stations and inside trains (audio message and screen displays).
The bus operations centre (COP) is notified and operations supervisors (CO) head out to the busiest métro stations. There, along with station staff, they make sure customers are informed and redirected toward alternative means of transportation. If the service disruption is expected to last longer than 30 minutes, special bus service is deployed.
Re-establishing métro service becomes priority number one for all involved crews. Once it is back to normal, a message is again sent out through all information tools to notify customers that service is resuming.
The duration of the service interruption we announced is determined by its cause. That assessment is based on the compiled history of average times for resuming service for each type of disruption.
Keep in mind that each service interruption or disruption is different, and that situations can unfold quickly, depending on which response teams are involved. That explains why service can sometimes resume earlier than initially announced or, on the contrary, some disruptions can take longer.
After service is interrupted, it usually resumes gradually. For safety reasons, and to re-establish normal train frequency, traffic controllers must allow a certain distance between them. The trains cannot immediately start moving forward together, simultaneously.
The « service gradually resuming » message tells you that some further delays can happen while trains are moving from station to station, up until normal service is fully restored.
Keep in mind that during rush hour, transit system ridership is quite significant. At McGill station alone, it’s the same as having the passenger load of 12 Boeing 747s every five minutes. Sometimes, you need to let a few trains go by before being able to get aboard.
In general, normal service is re-established within a few minutes of it gradually resuming. A message is then sent out, advising that service is normal again.
The Montréal métro has a few unique features:
- It consists of two tracks, one-way in each direction. When one train is stopped, it effectively prevents other trains from moving forward too.
- It is powered by electricity. To ensure optimal reliability with our installations, our underground network is divided into several electrical power zones, each one covering several stations. When electrical power to the tracks is cut at one station, to retrieve an item on the tracks, for example, all stations in that zone, or sector, will be impacted and all trains will stop moving.
During a service interruption, our goal is to maintain service along the longest sections of lines as possible. That can be done when temporary service is set up above ground.
Temporary service is established when métro service is still running in other sectors of the line that are not affected by the disruption. Indeed, the métro network consists of several sectors, which allows trains to reverse direction at certain locations using track switches, instead of having to reach the terminus to do so.
So, when service is disrupted, what stations are affected will depend on which electrical power zone is involved and at what location the trains can ‘turn around’, or reverse direction. Reversing maneuvers take a little longer, because the operator must first evacuate the train, and because he/she is alone to carry out the maneuver, whereas two employees are on hand to do so at the terminus.
By using the intercom, you can speak directly to the train operator and provide a detailed account of the situation. The operator can then immediately take appropriate action.
When the emergency brake is pulled, the train either remains stopped or stops at the next station if it is already underway. The train operator must then leave the front cab and walk over to the train car where the brake lever was pulled to assess the situation, which takes up more time.
So the intercom can save you precious time!
An service interruption means all trains are completely stopped along a section of line, while a slowdown means trains are still moving, but less often.
Service can be slowed down in one direction only or in both. To know, pay attention to any messages broadcast inside the station (audio and on screens).
However, if service is slowed down in one direction only, it could eventually be slowed down in the other direction as well, depending on how long the incident may last, through accumulated delays.
A train door is one of the most heavily-used and important component in the overall train structure, with regards to passenger safety. For that reason, jammed doors are taken quite seriously and require our full attention; a train cannot continue to operate until the problem door is closed and mechanically cut off from automatic door operations.
STM banks on equipment maintenance and public awareness campaigns to reduce the number of service interruptions caused by blocked train doors.
Did you know?
AZUR trains have 25% fewer doors than MR-73 and MR-63 train cars (3 per car instead of 4). The risk of incidents or failures is lessened by as much.
Each time an item must be retrieved from the tracks, an STM employee, qualified and authorized to walk along the tracks, must be dispatched to that location. The power supply must be cut off to ensure the employee’s safety, which also means stopping the trains for a few minutes, while the object is retrieved, and then turning the power back on.
Depending on what time it is and the type of item (an umbrella is big enough to damage a train running over it), the entire procedure can slow down, even stop métro service.
Nearly 50% of such incidents in our métro system are the result of passenger behaviour, willful or not, (dropped items, track and/or tunnel intrusions, doors held back, passengers not feeling well or injured, etc.). The installation of platform barriers would also cost from 10 to 15 million dollars per station, in addition to having to shut down portions of the network for long periods of time. Also, different types of trains are being operated simultaneously on some lines, with different door locations along the platform, making barriers an impractical, if not impossible solution to implement. As such, they cannot be taken into consideration in the short term.
The STM prefers to focus its efforts on more tangible solutions: more employees on train platforms and in the station, raising public awareness through various campaigns and installing cameras along train platforms and textured tiles along their edges.
In the event of a métro service interruption lasting more than 30 minutes, the STM will provide a special bus service when possible, that will run along the section of the métro line that has been suspended. The STM will also add additional buses for lines directly serving the area affected by the métro service interruption.
Here are your options:
- If possible, use the other métro lines: parallel orange and green lines in the city centre, the blue line to go from Jean-Talon to Snowdon, etc.
- Find a new route with our calculator by unchecking the métro option
- Use the special bus service available to client
- It is sometimes faster to wait for the métro service to resume. Bus lines passing near the métro stations affected by the service interruption may be overcrowded, despite the additional buses. The special bus service cannot replace the capacity of the métro. It is therefore possible that, despite all the efforts of the STM teams, you may not be able to board a bus immediately. Depending on the duration of the service interruption, sometimes, the best solution is to make the most of it and have a coffee!
A special bus service, also known as the interim surface service (Service Provisoire Surface - SPS), is used to connect stations, affected by a service interruption, by bus.
When possible, a special bus service is put in place when a service interruption lasting more than 30 minutes occurs. It is important to identify and direct the few available buses on the network toward the stations affected by the interruption, requisition the buses not being used in the bus garages and deploy the necessary personnel to drive said buses.
The capacity of a bus is not the same as that of a métro train: more than 1,000 people can travel on a single métro train. Therefore, roughly 15 buses are needed to do the same job as a single métro train. Furthermore, a métro train passes every 3 minutes, with even shorter intervals during peak times. Therefore, there clearly aren’t enough buses available to meet the demand.
Putting in place a special bus service takes time and requires vehicles that are often already in service. At certain times of the day, such as the morning rush hour (6 a.m. to 9 a.m.) and the evening (3 p.m. to 6 p.m.), all available buses are already in service around the city. Certain buses from regular lines must therefore be redirected to put in place the special bus service.
It is also necessary to take into account the travel time required for vehicles to reach the affected métro stations. It is for all these reasons that the special bus service is only implemented for interruptions lasting 30 minutes or more.
On-site staff will guide you to the location where you can board the bus. You can also view the station plans (available in PDF on our website or at the station) to find out the location of the scheduled stops.
Other bus lines serving the affected section are supplemented, when it is possible to sustain the increased temporary demand. We suggest you recalculate your route through a mobile app or our website by unchecking the métro option.
With almost 1 000 métro employees moving through stations, at all hours of the day and evening, and over a hundred Assistance panels, you can always count on someone being nearby or being able to communicate with an employee. Also, over 2000 security cameras are installed throughout the network. With secondary fare booths sometimes being closed, you can always use the black telephone next to it to speak with the fare controller at the main entrance.
If an emergency situation happens, find the Assistance panel on the train platform and pick up the red telephone to speak with a métro employee. If you or someone in the station requires immediate assistance, our employee will quickly get in touch with first responders. You can also speak directly with any station employee.
If you are on the train and you or someone near you needs assistance, use the intercom to speak with the metro operator up front. He/she can then take immediate action to get more help or intervene directly to help out the person in need.
If the emergency brake is used as your initial reaction, the train will remain stopped if it has not already pulled out of the station. If it is already running, the train will stop at the next station. The operator will then have to walk to the car where the brake lever was pulled to assess the situation before contacting the métro’s control centre and initiate appropriate action if needed. Keep in mind that using the intercom can save precious time!
Look up the various tools at your disposal to stay informed in the event of a métro service disruption.