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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

TSB cites improper signal, incomplete communication in VIA train incident


Incomplete communication and improper signal blocking led to the risk of collision between a VIA Rail Canada Inc. train and equipment at a CN work site in Ontario last year, Canada's Transportation Safety Board (TSB) announced yesterday.

The TSB report addresses a situation that involved a VIA passenger train that entered limits in Whitby, Ontario, without the proper permission. There were no injuries in the incident, which occurred Oct. 25, 2015, according to a TSB press release.

According to the report: Prior to beginning track work in the Kingston Subdivision, a foreman called CN rail traffic control for permission for exclusive use of the south track between Mile 204 and 305. Permission was granted, which meant that trains would operate only on the north track in that area. However, the rail traffic controller inadvertently entered improper signal blocking that would still permit trains to operate on the south track past Mile 304.

Meanwhile, a westbound VIA train was traveling on the south track, and the crew, complying with the rules and signals, contacted the foreman for permission to proceed through the work site. The foreman permitted the train to proceed on the north track.

The train crew, recognizing that the train was routed and would remain on the south track, contacted the foreman again to indicate that the train would be crossing over at Whitby. The train crew did not, however, specify that the train was still on the south track. The foreman — not realizing the train was on the south track — said they could proceed.

When the train crew saw the work equipment ahead, the train was brought to a stop, about a quarter of a mile past the entrance to the work area.

Investigators determined that because of incomplete communications between the foreman and train crew, the foreman was unaware that the train has been inadvertently routed onto the south track. The TSB underscored that if standard protocols are not in place, the desired routing of trains may not be clearly understood.

The report also noted that if foremen don't have real-time display tools to help them determine which tracks are active in their work areas, improper train routing may not be identified soon enough to avoid the risk of a train entering a work area without adequate permission.

The investigation also highlighted that implementation of existing technology, such as proximity detection devices and advance warning devices, can be an effective means to warn train crews and track workers that they are approaching one another.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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