Published October 3, 2023

GO Transit trains, UP Express slowly resume service after CN system outage

GO Transit

By Christopher Reynolds and Tara Deschamps

A network-wide system failure at CN Rail that saw afternoon rush-hour travel for commuters across the Greater Toronto Area thrown into chaos Tuesday has been resolved.

The outage halted all GO Transit trains, as well as a rail link to Toronto's main airport.

CN Rail said late Tuesday afternoon that it was experiencing "an internet connectivity and electronic data interchange issue." 

"While there is no indication of a cybersecurity issue, the cause of the outage is currently under investigation," it wrote.

The Montreal-based company said in the evening that internet connectivity had been restored and that GO and VIA trains to and from Toronto's Union Station had resumed normal movements.

Metrolinx, which operates GO Transit, said in a statement late Tuesday that service was continuing to recover. 

"Tomorrow, we intend to run our regularly scheduled train service, however there could still be some delays and modifications as we work to move our trains and crews back into place after today’s CN outage," the regional transit operator said.

At around 4:30 p.m. — three and a half hours after the problems began — GO Transit said "limited service" from downtown Toronto's Union Station was resuming, with outbound trains every 30 minutes.

Metrolinx warned commuters at the time that available trains were expected to be "very busy" and suggested exploring alternatives. 

At Union Station, display boards carried a uniform message in yellow font for virtually all service lines during the height of the outage: "Wait/Attendez."

Karen Perez was heading back to Markham, Ont., when she found herself on a platform without a train.

"There's no other way to get home," the accountant said. "I thought maybe they would have said, 'The bus is an alternative.' But they're not saying that. They're just saying, 'Find another way home.'"

Perez said she was mulling an $80 Uber ride, but was waiting to see how her fellow commuters responded.

"None of us know what to do," she said. "We're just looking forlornly."

Chris Mabb said her office sent the whole team home early so they could start making their way home. 

"I'm taking my chances here,” Mabb said

“There's no point in being frustrated unless I have an appointment … Just stay cool,” she added, wafting a pink fan back and forth in the heat, which felt like 32 C with the humidity, according to Environment Canada.

Nearby, Jerwin Castillo said his dinner plans were “gone” as a result of the outage. 

"It’s frustrating," he said, adding he was hoping a friend would give him a ride home. 

Metrolinx said the CN Rail system failure, which began around 1 p.m., had affected all its rail corridors. 

GO trains were held for hours at their nearest station – GO Transit said the trains weren't moving because signals could not be given to them. 

Via Rail trains routed through Union Station were also affected, as was the UP Express, which connects the downtown core to Toronto Pearson International Airport. 

The UP Express said late Tuesday afternoon that it had resumed limited service, with delays and cancellations expected. Via Rail said some passengers would "experience delays."

CN trains, EXO commuter trains in Montreal and Amtrak trains in the U.S. were all in operation, the rail operator said. CN's website appeared to be offline for several hours Tuesday afternoon.

Two railway sources, who were not authorized to speak on the record, told The Canadian Press that after CN's computerized signal system went down, a handful of rail traffic controllers were issuing orders by pen and paper that were then sent out to conductors via radio to move trains to stations or other safe areas of track, where they were halted.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2023.

Companies in this story: (TSX:CNR)

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