TSB issues safety advisory letters to the City of Ottawa as part of fatal September 2013 bus–train collision investigation
Gatineau, Quebec, 25 February 2014 – The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) issued two safety advisory letters today following a review of a number of reported incidents that occurred at the OC Transpo Transitway–rail crossing in Barrhaven. This crossing is the site of the 18 September 2013 accident involving an OC Transpo bus and a VIA Rail passenger train (TSB Railway Investigation R13T0192). These types of incidents are not normally reportable to the TSB, but in light of heightened public concern, the TSB followed up on them as part of its ongoing investigation
The first letter documents four incidents in which OC Transpo buses traversed this crossing when the crossing lights were activated but the gates had not yet come down. Because similar situations could arise anywhere in Canada, the TSB conducted a review of the Barrhaven incidents to identify common elements that might help improve railway crossing safety country-wide. The following observations were made:
Vehicle drivers do not always slow when approaching a railway crossing. According to most driver handbooks, when approaching a crossing, the vehicle driver should slow down, be prepared to stop, and yield the right of way to a train.
Drivers are expected to drive safely, respecting posted speed limits and taking road conditions into consideration. When driving conditions are poor, even driving at the posted speed limit may be unsafe when approaching a railway crossing.
Failing to stop at railway crossing signals when they are activated is a violation under most provincial highway traffic acts. However, these acts may not necessarily apply to vehicles operating on private roads, such as the OC Transpo Transitway.
In light of these incidents, the TSB called for the City of Ottawa to implement additional measures to ensure that buses can safely stop in advance of an activated railway crossing signal.
Another incident occurred at the same crossing when one of the gates stayed down and the lights remained activated after the passage of a train. The TSB followed up and determined that the automated crossing protection system functioned in the fail-safe mode as designed. In this situation, frost on electrical contacts prevented the return of the south gate to its upright position after the passage of a VIA train. Subsequently, the gate stayed down and the lights and bells remained active until the system recovered by itself 10 minutes later. While the crossing protection was still activated, 3 buses traversed the crossing, and an OC Transpo supervisor attempted to lift the south gate.
In this incident, reasonable steps were taken to minimize risk, and there were no adverse consequences, but there are still opportunities to improve safety. The TSB is calling for OC Transpo and VIA Rail to develop and implement standard operating procedures to ensure safe operations when unusual activations of automated crossing protection occur.
The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.
For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
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