This Is What Really Happens When The Emergency Brake On The Subway Is Pulled


You must have noticed the Emergency Brake installed in the mass transit rail system of your city like the New York subway. The bright red handle with a huge sign reading ‘Emergency Break’ is unmistakable. However, the set of instructions posted next to the emergency brake is quite confusing. The topmost instruction in all cases is a slight variation of ‘Do Not Pull The Emergency Brake!’


Image Source: NYTimes


So, what is the Emergency Brake Actually For?

Next, you need to figure out the circumstances in which the emergency brake handle could reasonably be pulled. The website of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the largest transport service provider in the North America, reads:

“Use the emergency brake cord only when the motion of the subway presents an imminent danger to life and limb.”


Image Source: MTA


The transit officers explained the ‘imminent danger’ as a situation where a passenger is trapped in the door of the subway or is caught between two train cars. The officer further explained that pulling on the emergency brake in case of a fire, or an assault from one of the passengers in the car will hinder the rescue operation as the railway car would be stuck underground.


Image Source: Reddit


How does an Emergency Brake Work?

The MTA authorities explained the working of an emergency brake as:

“The emergency cord activates compressed-air brakes; an onboard conductor must then notify train traffic controllers, who can contact the Police Department. The braking system must be reset by the train’s crew before the car can start moving again, a process that usually takes 5 to 15 minutes and can delay tens of thousands of passengers traveling on a particular route.”

Thus, emergency brake of a subway system is something quite different from the one installed in the bus system informing the bus conductor to kindly stop. As seen in the video below, the compressed air-brakes installed in the subway cars are quite powerful and must be taken seriously!



1 Comment

  1. James Smith Reply

    Please note that it is spelled “Brake” in portions that you did not write. Not knowing the difference between “break” and “brake” does not improve your credibility.

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