Door ajar

You’ll probably be seeing mention of this video in the local media in the coming days (hopefully some will actually look into the issue instead of just posting the video with baseless conjecture like I am here). It shows a metro train travelling between the Assomption and Viau stations on the green line with a door stuck open, and is already getting traction on Twitter.

It shouldn’t be difficult to see the very serious safety implications of this kind of failure.

Metro trains are designed with a safety system designed to prevent exactly this (which is why it’s so rare). When it detects that a door has opened beyond a set limit, it automatically commands the train to stop. This is what causes a train to come to an abrupt halt, usually as it’s leaving a station, when someone either accidentally or deliberately attempts to force a door open.

Clearly, unless this video is an elaborate fake of some sort, this system failed on this train. Hopefully it will prompt an investigation that ensures it never happens again.

Since the failure happened on an older MR-63 train, expect some people to link this to the age of the trains and the apparent desperate need to replace them with new ones from Bombardier-Alstom.

UPDATE (Nov. 9): The Gazette’s Max Harrold has preliminary details from the STM: It was just that door, it was locked closed when the STM discovered the problem at Berri-UQAM, and it has since been fixed.

The spokesperson also adds “someone should have pulled the emergency brake” – though those handles on board the trains don’t actually stop a train in motion, they merely prevent it from leaving the next station.

Just about everyone has picked up the story, with varying amounts of journalism involved:

  • Radio-Canada posts the YouTube video, and has a phone interview with STM spokesperson Marianne Rouette, who’s had a busy day
  • Agence QMI says the video came to it via Mon Topo on Monday, and it has quotes from Rouette. It also says the train was in the direction of Honoré-Beaugrand, which contradicts the video and what Rouette says.
  • Métro posts the YouTube video, the basics, and links to Radio-Canada for STM reaction.
  • CBC Montreal posts the YouTube video and quotes Rouette, including the statement that parts from the door were sent “to the lab” for analysis.
  • The Gazette posts the YouTube video and quotes Rouette
  • CTV Montreal posts the YouTube video and interviews Rouette.
  • Branchez-Vous does its usual form of “journalism”, posting the YouTube video and quoting Radio-Canada without linking to it.
  • Montreal City Weblog points out that in 2004 the doors opened on the wrong side – twice. Not exactly the same issue, but it’s another case of doors being open when they shouldn’t.
  • Benoît Dutrizac interviews general manager Carl Desrosiers, who says this was caused by a simultaneous failure of two systems that were completely replaced only three years ago.

There’s also commentary already, mostly along the lines of “why did they just film it instead of pulling the emergency brake?” – from bloggers like Cécile Gladel. While I think I would have pulled the emergency brake if I was in that position, I would have also taken photos or video of it.

Consider this:

  • As much as safety is a consideration, there didn’t seem to be any immediate danger because the train wasn’t full
  • Pulling the brake or warning the driver would have caused delays as the problem was discovered and fixed, and most people on the metro are looking to get somewhere quickly
  • There’s a reasonable belief that the STM will take this more seriously now that there’s video of it in the news

The forum also has some discussion of this event and testimonials of similar things happening in the past.

UPDATE (Dec. 30, 2013): It’s happened again. Story includes disturbing quotes from STM spokesperson suggesting this is a “fairly rare” occurrence, but it’s “normal” that such things happen a few times a year.

12 thoughts on “Door ajar

  1. Jimmy Jack

    So, unless you are really stupid and stuck your nose too far out the door to check it out, everything was okey dokey then? Can’t see the outrage here. Shit happens.

    “It shouldn’t be difficult to see the very serious safety implications of this kind of failure”

    See above.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      So, unless you are really stupid and stuck your nose too far out the door to check it out, everything was okey dokey then?

      Or if the metro was crowded and people fell out, or if the train came to a sudden halt and someone fell out, or if a gust of wind came in and threw someone off balance and they fell out. Or if someone had a bike and it rolled out. Or …

      But yes, let’s just assume anyone falling out of a giant hole in a moving vehicle is just “really stupid.”

      1. wkh

        I think if it was crowded people would have freaked out more, moved back, and pulled the brake. Besides, it’s against the rules to lean on the doors for fear of popping them I thought.

  2. AlexH

    It sort of sums up the YouTube mentality of people these days. At least two people with cameras taking video, and nobody pulling the emergency stop thing.

  3. ATSC

    Pulling the break with such a large opening, and such a high speed, might have sent some flying towards the opening. Better to wait until the train stops at the next station.

    The train was probably in full speed before somebody released that this was a malfunction, and the emergency break needed to be pulled.

    It’s like driving a car. You can slam on the breaks on a red light that changed on you, but then you have to worry about the car behind you plowing into your rear.

    It’s really a judgement call and what will do the less damage, if damage at all.

    1. ATSC

      Having just viewed the clip. I should add that there is a cut in both sound and video in the clip. So, that says to me that either the person stopped the recording during the station to station transit, or they started to record again into the next station to station transit.
      What I’m trying to point out is that, did they did not pull the emergency brake after one station? Did they leave the train continue into the next station?

    2. Fagstein Post author

      Pulling the break with such a large opening, and such a high speed, might have sent some flying towards the opening.

      The emergency brake (at least, the one accessible to passengers) doesn’t work that way. The train slows down and stops at the next station, it doesn’t come to an immediate halt in the tunnel.

  4. Karine

    When I was in high school (or cegep, can’t remember) I was on the orange line when someone, clearly high, maybe drunk or both, managed to open one of the doors. No one pulled the brake, it hadn’t occured to me to do so besides, I think we were headed towards Henri-Bourassa, still a terminus back then so we all had to disembark. I wonder if I had witnessed it today if I would have had the forethought to pull the brake (doubtful), film (also doubtful but only because it’s not ingrained in me) or just sit there and look on, thinking of a Facebook status about it (more then likely).

  5. Glyn Clarke

    The city being the way it is, I can see the person who pulls the emergency brake getting a fine for doing so, even in the face of a legitimate problem. But maybe I am just being a bit too cynical.

    I have to say it was very wrong from the beginning for the Quebec Liberals to try and award the new metro car contact to Bombardier, and then Bormbardier Alstom… It goes against established principles in international trade, yet the whole debacle has set the time line for new cars back a few years as every body kept trying to jump in, force changes to spec, et cetera. It shows that it is time for new cars sooner than later, and may be despite the potential for us tax payers to get soaked (again) we can’t wait any longer making the wrong move right.

    If you understood that try explaining it to me so I can understand it…

  6. W G, Gatineau

    First, a little story. There was once a Canadian Governor General’s wife a long time ago who was a bit more liberated and free-thinking than the usual norms of society, and she requested, and got, an open air carriage at the FRONT of the CP train crossing the Canadian Rockies. This would be quite exciting.

    Which brings me to this story. I’d pay extra money to ride in an open air car in the front of the Metro train some time. These people got the thrill I have been seeking (ok, not quite, but sort of).

    So, the riders with cameras didn’t know what the emergency stop switch does. Maybe there should be an app for that. Or a panic button on the Opus card.


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