The New York City subway system is a dark and labyrinthine phantasmagoria, so maybe it's surprising this sort of thing doesn't happen more often: on August 11th an A express train was driven in the wrong direction for several minutes. The train headed uptown on the downtown tracks between Canal Street and Spring Street, only stopping when the operator saw the front lights of a downtown train which was idling outside West 4th Street.

“She could have had a head-on collision,” once source tells the Daily News. “That’s the only way to say it. There’s no nicer way to put it.” The incident, which fortunately did not end in catastrophe, occurred after signal problems prompted dispatchers to order the train back uptown. Sources tell the tabloid:

The proper series of steps would have been to empty the train of passengers, pull into a spur track just south of Canal, and then maneuver through a switch to the northbound express track, authorities said. Instead, operator simply went north on the same southbound track, apparently thinking she would soon encounter the crossover switch she needed by going in that direction.

These sources also say the dispatcher tried to alert the train crew via radio, but the crew says the calls never came through. The train's crew has been assigned to desk duty pending the outcome of an investigation.

Asked how frequently this sort of thing happens, MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg says, "It's an extremely rare occurrence—I don't recall another such incident in my time here. Fortunately, there was very little risk of a collision, since all other southbound trains were being held in their stations, and the incident train was moving at restricted speed with extreme caution. The crew is being held out of service as we continue our investigation into exactly how this occurred."

In May, 19 commuters were injured when an F train derailed in Woodside, Queens.