All current TTC subway slow-speed zones should be removed by end of March: officials

After the TTC conducted a major inspection at the end of January 2024, 21 slow-speed orders were placed due to maintenance issues. Officials say they've made progress and the remaining ones should be removed by the end of March. Nick Westoll reports.

Officials say TTC subway riders on Lines 1 and 2 who have had to deal with frustratingly slow commutes on certain rail segments due to maintenance issues should see an improvement by the end of March.

“We understand customers’ frustrations when it comes to these reduced-speed zones. They do add trip times, particularly when there are a lot of subway trains on tracks as that can really create some congestion,” TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said.

“Our commitment, though, was to get these dealt with so that we can have longer-term, reliable service and that’s really what these slowdowns are for. They’re in place while we make those infrastructure repairs.”

The issues TTC riders are currently experiencing date back to the results of an annual geometrical survey of the subway system’s tracks conducted in late January. It identified 21 different areas where the tracks were not to specifications.

Officials said trains can still operate in the affected areas, but can’t do so at full speed.

“When you’re talking about the track geometry, we’re talking about matters of millimetres here,” Green said.

CityNews went along Line 1 in mid-February to see first-hand how travel times were impacted. At around lunchtime, a train travelling south to Bloor from Rosedale reached a speed of around 42 km/h. However, minutes later a train travelling north to Rosedale from Bloor — one of the previously identified slow-speed zones — reached a top speed of approximately 11 km/h.

Green touted progress made by TTC crews over the past six weeks.

“As of today, we’re down from 21 to seven … so that’s the good news. We went from about 16,500 feet of rail, which reduced speed zones, to about 6,000 today,” he said.

“We’ve knocked out about 10,000 feet of issues so that’s good. We do have a bit of work to do and our hope is that we can have all of those out by the end of March.”

As of March 12, these were the remaining issues from the January inspection identified by TTC staff:

  • Castle Frank station to Broadview station (500-foot rail section with a 15 km/h speed restriction eastbound, target removal end of March)
  • Broadview station to Chester station (700-foot rail section with a 15 km/h speed restriction eastbound, target removal end of March)
  • St. Andrew station to Union station (950-foot rail section with a 20 km/h speed restriction southbound, target removal end of March)
  • Union Station to King station (1,570-foot rail section with a 25 km/h speed restriction northbound, target removal 10 to 14 days)
  • St. Clair station to Davisville station (1,000-foot rail section with a 25 km/h speed restriction northbound, target removal five to 10 days)
  • Davisville station to St. Clair station (1,050-foot rail section with a 25 km/h speed restriction southbound, target removal five to 10 days)
  • York Mills to Sheppard-Yonge station (800-foot rail section with a 25 km/h speed restriction northbound, target removal end of March)

A new rail crossover issue affected an 800-foot stretch northbound between North York Centre station and Finch station was recently detected and on Tuesday a 25 km/h speed restriction was added. The issue was set to be rectified in five to 10 days.

CityNews asked about the lengthy time it has taken to clear the list of issues. Green said crews have been dealing with difficult logistical hurdles.

“We have a very finite amount of time to get the work done. So if you think about going in overnight, we have really three hours on a good night between when the subway service shuts down and when it reopens. So that really poses a challenge,” he said.

“We have the weekend closures, but we also have a lot of pre-planned work. This (current repair work) is what we would call emergency reactive work as opposed to that work that we do over [proactive, weekend] closures.”

CityNews contacted TTC board chair Jamaal Myers’ office Tuesday morning to ask about frustrations conveyed by riders, but a response wasn’t received by the time of publication Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, Green said TTC staff have changed their annual rail geometry process. He said they will now do it two or three times a year to try to avoid having the high number of speed-restricted zones seen earlier in the year.

“When we do identify these issues, we will have fewer of them at each time, while continuing to do our daily maintenance of the 72-hour inspections,” he said.

“It really sort of came to light this year with these 21 that came in at one time. Everybody said that’s too many to have a one time and certainly we recognize it. Our customers are feeling it, so for best practices we need to spread that and work out.”

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