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Rail News: Safety

Canadian safety board issues three recommendations to reduce missed signal risks


The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is calling for several fundamental changes in rail safety — beginning with the development of an automatic, fail-safe way to slow or stop trains when a signal is missed — after investigating a fatal VIA Rail Canada Inc. derailment that occurred last year near Burlington, Ontario.

In February 2012, three locomotive engineers were killed and dozens of passengers were injured when a VIA Rail train derailed at a crossover en route from Niagara Falls to Toronto. Investigators determined within days that the train had been traveling at more than four times the allowable speed and that the locomotive crew had not properly responded to signals requiring a slowdown to 15 mph, TSB officials said in a press release.

An independent agency that investigates rail, marine, pipeline and aviation accidents, the TSB recommends the adoption of an automatic, fail-safe control system; installation of in-cab video cameras in all lead locomotives in mainline operations; and improvements in crew survivability by applying crashworthiness standards for new locomotives to rebuilt passenger and freight locomotives.

The frequency of misperceived signals — which are occurring at a rate of about one per month in Canada — is the driving force behind the three recommendations, TSB officials said.

"Every day, hundreds of passenger and freight trains encounter thousands of signals all over Canada," said TSB Chairwoman Wendy Tadros. "Missed signals are a real risk, and we need to drive that risk down."

The Railway Association of Canada (RAC) supports the TSB's recommendation that railroads install in-cab video cameras and voice recorders in all mainline controlling locomotives.

"Our railway members are anxious to install these devices in locomotives. We have been on record for some time now with Transport Canada and the TSB, having informed both organizations that we wish to use video and audio as part of our safety management systems to prevent accidents," said RAC President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Bourque in a prepared statement.

Incorporating in-cab video cameras and voice recorders as part of rail safety management programs will help ensure the intended objective of improved safety is achieved, he said.

"We note that the TSB confirms that, under current legislation, it would be illegal for railway companies to use recordings as part of a safety management system to prevent accidents. This must change," said Bourque.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/12/2013