Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Rail industry lags behind: TSB

Says safety concerns falling on deaf ears

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The TSB expects more preventable accidents -- like this fatal one in Burlington, Ont., in 2012 -- if concerns aren't addressed.

NATHAN DENETTE / THE CANADIAN PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

The TSB expects more preventable accidents -- like this fatal one in Burlington, Ont., in 2012 -- if concerns aren't addressed.

BURLINGTON, Ont. -- Canada's rail industry continues to stall on using technology that could prevent accidents triggered by the "misperception" of track signals -- as seen in a deadly derailment in Burlington, Ont. -- the Transportation Safety Board charged Tuesday.

The agency called on major passenger and freight railways to invest in an automatic, fail-safe system that would slow or stop trains if the crew misread the track signals.

That safety system could have prevented the Feb. 26, 2012 crash, in which the crew operating the Via Rail train all "misperceived" crucial signals telling them to slow down, the TSB said in its report on the incident.

While that accident proved fatal -- three crew members were killed and 45 people were injured -- the TSB warned similar misperception of signals by train crews happens all too often.

"About once a month, somewhere in Canada, there's a disconnect between what the signal displays and the action the crew takes. That's a risk and we need to drive that risk down," said TSB chairwoman Wendy Tadros.

"We have to look at the benefit to the rail system, we have to look at the benefit to safety and to Canadians."

While she couldn't estimate the cost of implementing such a system across the country, Tadros said the safety mechanism was clearly needed in Canada.

"We lag way behind the rest of the world. Many, many countries have these systems," said Tadros, listing the United States, Britain, Germany, India and China among them.

"Transport Canada needs to sit down with the railways and talk to them about what needs to be done and then there needs to be some agreement on the technology."

The federal transport minister didn't make any commitments on the fail-safe controls -- also known as positive train control -- being called for by the TSB.

"We are closely monitoring the implementation of positive train control in the United States," said Denis Lebel. "Where there is a clear safety benefit, our government will not hesitate to take action."

The TSB suggested, however, its recommendations regarding additional defences over the past decade have fallen on deaf ears.

"The industry has implemented more rules and procedures. This hasn't fixed the fundamental problem. And these accidents keep happening," Tadros said. "We need to fix this because if we don't, it will happen again."

Meanwhile, CN Rail said it was working with Transport Canada on examining fail-safe train controls.

However it said the collision-avoidance technology is complex and should be further tested before being put in place across the rail industry.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 12, 2013 A7

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