Tag Archives: Canada

Canada: Incompatible government policies – change isneeded

11 May

The story that follows is an opinion piece by Michael Bourque, the President and CEO of the Railway Association of Canada. recently published in the Regina Leader-Post:

See Tracks, Think” was the message of the recent Rail Safety Week, devoted to educating the public about dangers associated with railway crossings.

People should think “train”, “danger” or “death” when they see tracks. They should think about the impact a lack of awareness around railway property can have on them, their family, the community and railway employees.

The Transportation Safety Board lists railway crossing safety as an issue that poses a great risk to Canada’s transportation system, and one that needs addressing immediately. Roadway-railway crossing accidents account for nearly 20 per cent of all rail accidents in Canada, and sadly, 30 per cent of these accidents result in death or serious injury. Last year, 21 souls were lost to railway crossing accidents in Canada. (In Saskatchewan alone in 2014, there were 33 accidents, two fatalities and seven serious injuries.)

Over the last 10 years, crossing safety in Canada has generally improved. Accidents have decreased thanks to railways’ investments, new regulations and joint industrygovernment efforts like Operation Lifesaver, which educates the public about trespassing on railway property and the hazards at crossings.

But the number of crossing incidents is not decreasing. In 2014, there were 180 crossing accidents in Canada, a total similar to the previous year, and to the five-year average. This is not surprising, due to record levels of road and rail traffic. But the trend is worrisome, and will not improve unless activity at crossings declines.

The opening of new crossings has contributed to this issue. When the Canada Transportation Act was passed in 1996, it gave the Canadian Transportation Agency the authority to order a railway company to build a suitable private crossing if it “considers it necessary for the owner’s enjoyment of the land.”

At the time, nobody foresaw an increase in new crossings. Nor did they consider the severe impact of these crossings on safety and railway capacity. But communities have since grown in proximity to railway lines, traffic has increased at Canada’s tens of thousands of existing crossings, and additional crossings have been built to relieve traffic congestion in many municipalities. So as Canadians increasingly rely on rail, the best way to improve public safety and railway capacity is to reduce the number of crossings.

Unfortunately, the existing regulatory approach for opening and closing rail crossings in Canada is standing in the way of this goal. Under it, Transport Canada has the authority to close grade crossings, while the Canadian Transportation Agency has the job to open new crossings – without the need to assess public safety.

This dichotomy in authority jeopardizes public safety, and has led to some counterproductive outcomes. In one case, the agency ordered CP to open a crossing just after Transport Canada had ordered it permanently closed for safety reasons. New crossings should only be approved as a last resort and if no alternatives exist. If a new crossing opens, an existing one should be closed so there is no net increase to the number of crossings.

While safety should be the main motivation for closing crossings, there is also an economic argument. The economy depends on Canada’s railways to move 75 million people and more than $280 billion of goods each year. Crossings have the effect of slowing rail traffic for people and goods. Accidents affect people, railway employees, communities, the environment and business. Railways need to maintain fluidity on their mainline tracks in order to deliver high levels of service to customers. Stretches of track are like highways; when an accident occurs, the network gets clogged, resulting in negative economic outcomes.

Transport Canada should maintain its authority to close all unsafe crossings. It regulates the overall safety of crossings in Canada, understands the associated dangers of railway crossings, and has developed regulations and grade crossing closure and upgrade programs to deal with this issue.

In addition, sole authority to open new crossings should be given to Transport Canada so public safety is always considered in the approval process for new crossings.

The Canada Transportation Act review that’s under way should consider how to reduce the number of rail crossings, and how to apply appropriate protections to those that remain.

Organizations like Operation Lifesaver help raise awareness about this issue, but these efforts get curtailed if crossings continue to open without consideration of public safety. Operation Lifesaver’s network – railway companies, labour groups, police and volunteers – hosts more than 500 rail safety activities across Canada each year. Since 2003, when Rail Safety Week was launched, crossing accidents in Canada have been reduced by 28 per cent.

This outreach has resulted in progress. If these efforts continue, and the regulatory regime evolves, we can improve crossing safety in Canada.

The closure of private level crossings is a cost-effective route to eliminating a large reduction in the number of level crossings against the background of any new level crossing requiring the closure of at least two through a consolidation scheme. There is no case for any new level crossings that does not effect a net reduction of level crossings on any railway system, certainly not in the developed world.

As towns grow, developers should be funding additional grade-separated crossings of the railway, not adding to the number of level crossings on the pretext that such crossings are necessary to allow the landowner to fully benefit from the land owned. Where land is to be developed, planning gain needs to be used to fund grade-separated routes across the railway. Or, at the very least, to enable the crossing to be upgraded to a safer form.

Ottawa, ONT: New Canada-wide regulations to improve crossing safety

19 Dec

The Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, today announced regulations to help prevent accidents and improve railway safety. The new Grade Crossings Regulations establish new safety standards for federally-regulated level crossings. Amendments to the Transportation Information Regulations will help identify and address safety risks proactively.

A grade crossing, also known as a road or level crossing, is where a railway line crosses a road at the same level. Railway companies and road authorities (provinces, municipalities, band councils, and private crossing owners) are all responsible for managing railway crossing safety in Canada. After extensive consultation with stakeholders across the country, the Government of Canada is introducing new Grade Crossings Regulations.

Ms Raitt said “The goal of the new Grade Crossings Regulations is to save lives by providing consistent grade crossing safety standards across Canada, and promoting collaboration between railways and road authorities. The Amendments to the Transportation Information Regulations will also help identify and address safety risks proactively. We continue to work together to make the Canadian railway system one of the safest in the world.”

Under the authority of the Railway Safety Act, these Regulations improve safety by helping to reduce the frequency and severity of accidents, preventing derailments and injuries and saving lives. In particular, the Regulations improve safety by:

  • Providing consistent grade crossing safety standards across Canada;
  • Clarifying the roles and responsibilities of railway companies and road authorities; and
  • Improving safety features and promoting collaboration betweenall parties.

These Regulations are results-based, meaning they contain options for bringing a consistent level of safety to each railway crossing in Canada. They will take full effect over the next seven years.

The Government of Canada is also introducing amendments to the Transportation Information Regulations. Under the changes, rail carriers will be required to report leading indicator data to Transport Canada. Leading indicators are measurable factors that can be used to proactively identify and address safety risks. This new requirement will support better planning and performance measurement, more focused audits and inspections, and targeted programs that address specific safety issues.

  • Managing safety at grade crossings requires collaboration between 1,460 municipal and provincial road authorities, 95 Aboriginal bands, 32 railway companies, and many individual private authorities. The Grade Crossings Regulations increase collaboration, require information-sharing, and clarify roles and responsibilities.
  • The Regulations improve safety at federally regulated grade crossings, including approximately 14,000 public and 9,000 private grade crossings along 42,650 kilometres of federally-regulated railway track in Canada.
  • From 2009 to 2013, collisions between vehicles and railway equipment at public and private crossings caused, on average, 26 deaths and 26 serious injuries a year.
  • The Regulations address the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) Watchlist issue that the “risk of passenger trains colliding with vehicles remains too high in busy rail corridors”.
  • Under the changes to the Transportation Information Regulations, carriers will have to provide leading indicator data in three areas: operations, equipment, and engineering.

Ottawa, ONT: City to spend CAD2 million to eliminate only crossing on O-Train corridor

30 May

The City of Ottawa is planning to spend CAD2 million to eliminate the only level crossing on the O train corridor along which an intensified service is to be introduced. The passive level crossing in question is on the Brookfield multi-use pathway which is to be diverted. The diversion will take the pathway under the railway at the existing bridge over Sawmill Creek. The alternative of upgrading the level crossing to active status has been considered but given the headway of eight minutes associated with the enhanced O-Train service this option has been dismissed.

Calgary, ALB: Pedestrian fatality, distraction likely

26 Feb

A man was fatally injured when he was struck by a light rapid transit train on a level crossing in Calgary, Alberta. The accident occurred on the level crossing at the intersection of 36th Street a d 12th Avenue NE at about 20.30 on February 25th, 2014. Police have reported that the pedestrian was probably distracted and unaware of the approaching train as witnesses have said that the victim was wearing headphones when the accident occurred.

Glencoe, Ontario: …… and the lawsuits keep flying

28 Jan

A third lawsuit has been served on the mother as executor of her adult son’s estate alleging that her son was negligent when his truck fatally collided with a passenger train, causing it to derail. in parallel the lawsuit was served on Southwest Middlesex Council alleging that the township had inadequate signage on the approach to the then passive level crossing and the poor state of the road.

The latest lawsuit has been served on behalf of Via Rail, owned by the federal government, which is claiming damages of CAD 2.8 million arising out of the accident near the adult son’s farm near Glencoe, Ontario. The Via Rail claim is for both damage to the train and injuries caused to passengers travelling on the train when the accident occurred on July 29th, 2011.

The lawyers retained by all involved parties are the only ones who will profit from this fatal accident at a then passive crossing for which a case for the upgrade to active status has been made.

Subsequent to the accident the crossing has been upgraded to an automatic half-barrier configuration. The costs of the upgrade were shared between Canadian National – owner of the railway infrastructure; Southwest Middlesex Council – the highways authority; and, Transport Canada – who provided federal grant funding.

Canada: TSB issues report in respect of pedestrian fatality

28 Jan

Canada’s Transportation Safety Board investigation report into the December 1st, 2012, death of an 11-year-old girl on the Third Street automatic half-barrier level crossing of Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) in London, Ontario has been published. The findings of the TSB investigation are detailed below:

Findings as to causes and contributing factors

1.Pedestrian 1 was struck by the train and sustained fatal injuries while attempting to traverse the crossing ahead of the train.
2.It is likely that the pedestrians were motivated to traverse the crossing to avoid having to wait for the train.
3.Given the pedestrians’ familiarity with the crossing, it is likely that previous observations of individuals traversing the crossing in front of a train further reduced the perception of the risks.
4.In the absence of sufficient visual and auditory cues, the pedestrian incorrectly decided that there was enough time to cross before the arrival of the train.

Findings as to risk

1.While roadway automatic warning device (AWD) protection may reduce the risk of vehicle accidents, there is an increased risk to pedestrians at public crossings equipped solely with roadway AWD in locations where there is a high level of pedestrian traffic.
2.Without specific education, such as Operation Lifesaver material delivered to schools near railway property, there is an increased likelihood that school-age children will remain uninformed of the dangers associated with railway crossings or trespassing on railway property and continue to take risks that can have fatal consequences.
3.Ineffective enforcement of crossing and trespassing laws increases the probability that the public will continue demonstrating unsafe behaviours that put them at risk.

Safety actions taken since the accident are:


On January 23rd, 2013, the TSB issued Rail Safety Information letter (RSI) 01/13 entitled “Trespassing in the Vicinity of Third Street Public Crossing in London, Ontario.” The RSI outlined that approximately 60 pedestrians and cyclists per hour traversed the crossing using the sidewalks. Several trespassers were also observed on the railway right of way east of Third Street. The trespassers likely accessed the right of way through openings cut into the railway fence in a number of locations. Pathways observed extending from the railway fence to the track suggest that a high frequency of trespassing occurred in this vicinity. The RSI suggested that since trespassing accidents usually result in serious injury or fatality, railway inspection, maintenance, and enforcement programs must be sufficiently robust to ensure that trespassing activity is identified and proactively deterred.

On February 25th, 2013, Transport Canada (TC) responded that in areas where there are known access control issues, it conducts regular monitoring activities, informs the railways of any safety deficiencies and, if required, takes appropriate action. In this case, the TC Ontario Surface Regional Office followed up with Canadian Pacific Railway (CP). CP advised that the area was being monitored closely by their engineering officers, fencing was repaired, and signage was erected. TC will continue to work with the railway, the municipality, and other stakeholders to provide education and awareness about access control on railway properties in the City of London.

City of London

The City of London ordered the removal of brush along the right-of-way in the vicinity of crossings within city limits.

Transport Canada

TC is currently updating the Pedestrian Safety at Grade Crossing Guide in order to provide improved guidance to municipalities on pedestrian crossing safety.

Through its Rail Safety Education and Awareness (E&A) program, TC works with municipalities, railway, and provincial levels of government to promote, encourage, and facilitate discussions around railway safety. In conjunction with this program, TC has spearheaded railway crossing blitzes with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), local police forces, and railways in some towns to educate drivers and pedestrians on railway safety.

From February 12-14th, 2013, TC Rail Safety attended the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) conference in Windsor, Ontario, to educate municipalities on railway safety roles and responsibilities.

In February 2013, TC Rail Safety officials contacted CP police and the City of London regarding their involvement with rail safety in London and the surrounding area. TC spoke to both parties to inquire if the municipality and railway had plans to mitigate the risks identified in the TSB information letter.

On August 18-19th, 2013, TC Rail Safety attended the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference to educate municipalities on railway safety roles and responsibilities. On 05 September 2013, TC Rail Safety and various other stakeholders attended a meeting on railway emergency management hosted by the City of London to review and reinforce roles and responsibilities and brainstorm on proactive measures to promote railway safety. Similar meetings have been held in the City of Oshawa.

On November 7th, 2013, TC hosted a railway crossing blitz in the City of London with local police and CP Rail to continue to educate drivers and pedestrians on railway safety.

Canadian Pacific Railway

CP has committed to give Operation Lifesaver (OL) presentations in all schools situated within 1 km of its property. Since this accident, CP police have delivered OL presentations in 13 schools within the London area, including the school attended by the victim in this accident. Additional presentations were planned during the fall of 2013.

Since 2011, CP police have entered into 27 agreements with municipal police agencies permitting these agencies to act as CP agents in the enforcement of crossing and trespassing laws on CP property. The agencies are briefed on railway safety and the procedures to be adopted when enforcing trespassing prohibitions on CP property. CP entered into such an agreement with the City of London Police in August 2013.

CP police have met with representatives of the City of London to review grade crossing safety and to raise awareness of the City’s role in respect of rail safety in general.

As of September 15th, 2013:
•CP police have laid 43 trespass charges in the City of London.
•Joint enforcement operations with the City of London Police at grade crossings have resulted in 52 charges being laid in 2013. Additional joint operations are planned for the future.

The TSB report can be found at: http://www.tsb.gc.ca/eng/rapports-reports/rail/2012/r12t0217/r12t0217.asp

Raymore, Saskatchewan: fatal collision in thick fog

10 Jan

Route 6, Raymore, SK Source: Google Earth

Route 6, Raymore, SK
Source: Google Earth

A truck driver was killed when his vehicle was hit by a train on a level crossing in Raymore, Saskatchewan at about 11.15 on January 9th, 2014. The collision occurred on the Route 6 level crossing of the Canadian Pacific right-of-way when the area was blanketed with thick fog. The level crossing is of the automatic half-barrier type with duplicated flashing lights mounted on an over-roadway gantry.