Someone I know is a train conductor for the NY subway system. (For unfamiliar readers, this type of conductor does not collect tickets, but opens and closes the doors is the main person responsible for passenger safety - moreso than the train driver.)

Let's say the conductor is working his scheduled route, but the train scheduled is delayed, so that he is still on the train when Shabbat arrives. AFAIK, the MTA does not have a means where the conductor can request a substitute to take over mid-route. The assigned conductor must complete his route. If the conductor abandons the train, not only will the train not continue to operate, but passenger safety may be risked. (In NYC, people anger somewhat easily, fights occur on the subway; people get sick on the train, etc. need more ideas?)

Trains are placed out of service if there is a mechanical problem, the train itself is unsafe, or there is civil unrest on the train and it becomes more feasible to transfer passengers to another train. I don't think the MTA allows conductor religious practice as a reason to place a train out of service.

Must the conductor leave the train or does he have to complete the route to maintain passenger safety?

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    This reminds me of Uncle Moishy's "Ain't Gonna Work on Saturday" lyrics. – Shalom Jul 17 '15 at 18:38
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    He should break Shabbat (deorayta) only to prevent loss of life. Just like any other case. What is unique about this case that you ask here? I don't see what's interesting about this question at all. – Double AA Jul 17 '15 at 18:38
  • @DoubleAA Answer below is sufficient. I wasn't sure if public safety esp. regarding mainly non-Jews was the prioritizing factor, here. Beyond that, there is nothing unique about the subway situation. Shabbat Shalom. (Why did I assume that you live in Israel?) – DanF Jul 17 '15 at 18:49
  • What comes to my mind reading this is that if the conductor is Shomer Shabbos, he probably made his employer aware of this at hire, and they hopefully made/adjusted his work schedule accordingly. – Gary Jul 17 '15 at 18:54
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    Why is he conducting a train so close to Shabbos to begin with and why can't the MTA find a replacement if the delay is so great (and, if train delays are truly such a problem of pikuch nefashos, shouldn't he, even during the week, walk out so the sick and violent can use more reliable means of transportation less likely to result in loss of life due to life-threatening delays)? – Loewian Jul 17 '15 at 21:17

Agree with DoubleAA's comment. Abandoning his post could seriously risk life or limb. There's also the halachic concept of hezeka de-rabim, public safety. When it comes to the public (and this is the public), the thresholds are lowered for both probability and degree of damage that may ensue.

Rabbi Benny Lau spoke of some case involving a gas leak in his town. He said without melacha being done they could have simply evacuated the area, but it was allowable to break Shabbos to fix the problem, as it was a matter of public safety.

If he can safely do his job just as effectively with a shinui (e.g. pushing buttons with his knuckle), that's better; but safety is absolutely priority #1.

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