It was Gilon James’ first time on the GO train, but after a death on the tracks turned a one-hour ride into a nearly five-hour “nightmare,” it was likely his last.
She was one of the passengers on the transit system heading west from Toronto on Friday evening, when several trips faced lengthy delays after a train hit and killed a person west of the station Exhibition. Several commuters said their expectations were heightened by a host of technical difficulties afterwards.
Metrolinx spokesperson Suniya Kukaswadia said GO Train service on the Lakeshore West route was suspended around 11 p.m. due to the incident. Toronto police also said officers were at the scene to investigate.
Ms James said she was returning from the Rolling Loud music festival and was on a train behind the one that hit the person. She said she was stuck on the vehicle between stations for more than three hours without water.
“Me being on the GO for the first time thought it was the worst experience of my life,” Ms James said, noting that passengers were unable to leave the train as it was stuck between the stations.
Ms James said that at one point a passenger in her car suffered an epileptic seizure and emergency personnel had to fight their way through the doors to reach the passenger and get him go out.
She described how a door malfunctioned and remained open after the rescue. She said her car was ordered to move to adjacent cars due to the door malfunctioning, i.e. when people got angry as they were packed even more.
Ms James said she had to stay up for the last hour and a half of the nearly five-hour delay.
“I felt like I was in a sardine can,” she said.
Ms Kukaswadia said she was not aware of any injuries apart from death on the track on the trains and attributed problems with the train doors to passengers who opened several of them during the delays.
“Crews determined that several doors had been opened by customers and needed to be secured before the train could operate,” Ms Kukaswadia wrote in a statement.
Another commuter, Matt Johnson, said he was on the train involved in the death on the track and described a jolt on board when he slammed on the brakes after the incident.
He said the passengers were stuck on the train for two hours as police boarded to investigate. Subsequently, the train was taken out of service at the next stop, so passengers had to board another one.
To Mr Johnson’s disappointment, this second train was also taken out of service after just two stops.
The straw that broke the camel’s back for many passengers was when the third train also had to stop and disembark them for 15 minutes due to technical difficulties.
“People were starting to really speak out on the platform,” said Johnson, who was traveling further to Burlington.
Eventually, Mr Johnson said he returned home at 4.20am, after the first boarding at 10.45pm.
He and Ms James both said they were frustrated with the lack of information throughout the ordeal and were repeatedly told the train would start moving in minutes, when in reality, it took hours.
Asked about the lack of information given to passengers, Ms Kukaswadia thanked people for their patience and said all customer feedback would be considered.