Deadly Via Rail Crash Investigation Leads to Recommendations of ‘Fail-Safe Mechanism’

A comprehensive investigation of the accident when the crew of a Via Rail passenger train erroneously derailed the train last year in Burlington, Ont., has concluded that it was most likely a situation of misreading the light signals that ordered them to slow down for a track crossover. The incident consumed the lives of the three locomotive engineers.

A report of The Transportation Safety Board of Canada stated that it will remain a mystery as to who was to be blamed for the train to be travelling at more than four times its authorized speed at the time it had to switch tracks since there were no video or audio recorders. It stated that “the absence of any attempt to slow the train indicates that the VIA 92 crew members expected to proceed at track speed.”

Chairwoman of the TSB, Wendy Tadros, stated that the board has forwarded recommendations that trains shall be equipped with onboard video recorders and automated ways to stop trains. Highlighting several other incidents of the same kind, Tadros mentioned that “about once a month, somewhere in Canada, there’s a disconnect between what the signals display and the actions the crew takes. That’s the risk and we need to drive the risk down.” In a statement, CN revealed that it was working with Transport Canada to acquire a technology, known as Positive Train Control (PTC), about which is stated that it “is a technologically complex system that as of yet has not been proven in any large scale industry implementation … further deployment of PTC beyond the existing mandated rollout should not be pursued until we can fully validate the reliability and operability of the system.”

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