‘This is like pierce-your-ears screeching’: TTC says it’s trying to rectify Line 2 noise issues in west end

Some residents who live in Toronto’s west end say they are frustrated with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and extraordinarily loud screeching noises made by passing subway trains in open-air portions of Line 2.

Tamar Fernandes, who lives just west of Islington subway station, told Global News late last week she first noticed the periodic problem at the end of August with trains travelling between Islington and Kipling stations.

“There was an issue with trains all of a sudden making scraping, screeching, squealing sounds on a continuous basis. There had always been the odd one here and there, but this was pretty much continuous,” she stated while recounting a complaint she said she forwarded to the TTC.

“I don’t mind the regular sounds [trains make] … this is like pierce-your-ears screeching, like somebody is putting their nails on a chalkboard.”

Fernandes said the sounds stopped about a week to a week-and-a-half later before the sounds returned around Thanksgiving time. When she called the TTC again, she said she was read an email that stated there was a problem with the track lubrication system.

“[The email said] they ordered a part that would arrive in six to eight weeks. I said at the time, ‘What are you going to do in the mean time?’” Fernandes told Global News, as trains travelling on the tracks near her home could be heard over the phone.

The noise has prompted Fernandes and others to report issues to the transit agency through its Twitter account, @TTChelps, over the past couple of months. There were also complaints about similar noise near Old Mill station by the Humber River.

“@TTChelps @TTCnotices @311Toronto bad loud screetching (sic) noise made by all subway trains passing between Islington and Kipling. This has been going on since yesterday. It’s torture to all residents’ ears here. Stop,” Vivian Rebello wrote in mid-September.

“@TTChelps line 2 [westbound] and [eastbound] between Kipling and Islington, Royal York and Old Mill have usually high pitch, screeching noise when the subway pass through. It is affecting many peoples hearing,” Dom wrote a couple of days later.

Fernandes was told in an October tweet that there would be cleaned and lubricated twice a week.

“Thank you for your patience, Tamar. Our lubrication crew is now scheduled to inspect/clean and lubricate this area [two times a week]. During a recent inspection a replacement part was identified, and has been ordered. We will also be performing upgrades in the network. ^FR,” the Oct. 16 tweet read.

But she noted there have been three-to-four-week breaks in the noise. Fernandes also said that not all of the trains make noise either. With the most recent noise issues this month, she questioned if the matter is solely a track lubrication and cleaning issue.

Fernandes told Global News on Monday the noise had subsided over the weekend.

When Global News contacted the TTC to inquire about the ongoing noise issues last week, spokesperson Kadeem Griffiths confirmed the new lubrication units would be “on property in January 2019.”

On Monday, he said engineers attended the tracks on Friday to inspect the area to ensure it is clean.

“In the end, we want to be good neighbours and we’re really trying our best to make sure people aren’t disturbed by what’s going on around them,” Griffiths said.

“We’re continuing to work on it. We thank them for their patience while we’re working on it. It’s a strange issue because there’s so many factors contributing toward it.”

Late last month, Global News reported on a TTC announcement that said staff were working to address an increased amount of complaints about excessive noise and vibrations caused by “wheel flats,” flat spots on train wheels was particularly noticeable on the eastern half of Line 2.

The TTC said special monitoring devices check wheels for issues and determine which ones are in need of work, a process called “truing.” For wheels that require maintenance, a machine makes the necessary fixes to return the wheels to their original specifications. The process minimizes noise and vibrations.

At the time, TTC staff said riders and neighbours would notice “gradual improvement” over the next few weeks as crews worked to determine what exactly is causing the increase in “wheel flats.” There was speculation wet weather was a factor as it caused a spinning issue with train wheels.

Griffiths said transit staff are trying to find a solution that strikes a balance and doesn’t cause “wheel flats” or the screeching.

“We’re still trying to find a sweet spot you could say between the track being lubricated enough that it doesn’t make noise, but not too much that we end up with the spinning, and the emergency braking and the wheel flat issue, which causes noise in the other end of the city,” he said.

“We’re still kind of working through that … in the meantime, we’re going to keep monitoring the sound.”

Meanwhile, Fernandes said the issue has left her yearning for a definite answer on the problem.

“In some ways it’s kind of like a mystery … maybe there is a perfectly logical explanation,” she said.

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