Via train hits reverse to avoid collision with freight train

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TWO Via Rail engineers have been suspended without pay after the train they were operating Saturday did a fast reverse to avoid a collision with an oncoming freight train.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/11/2011 (3937 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

TWO Via Rail engineers have been suspended without pay after the train they were operating Saturday did a fast reverse to avoid a collision with an oncoming freight train.

The incident began just before noon on the CN Rail mainline, about 60 kilometres west of Dauphin.

The Via Rail train, travelling from Churchill to Winnipeg, was carrying 54 passengers, mostly Americans and some Europeans, and eight crew members.

A passenger said the Via train was supposed to have stopped at the Meharry siding to allow a CN freight train to pass by on the single track line but the passenger train continued past the siding for about eight to 11 kilometres, the passenger said, then slowly stopped.

The passenger, who is familiar with train operations, said the train then proceeded to back up, reaching speeds of about 50 to 65 km/h. The passenger said the train began backing up without an operating employee at the rear, as required by transportation regulations.

“It was in total violation of the rules,” the passenger said. “There was no operating employee in the rear of the train, which is a requirement of the rules, to protect the rear when they back up.”

The passenger said he was so alarmed by the speed of the train in reverse, he went to the last rail car to see what was going on. The train was travelling in reverse for about five minutes, he said, before one of the engineers reached the last car and used a radio to communicate with the other engineer.

The passenger said the Via Rail train travelled in reverse for about 15 minutes before it stopped at the Meharry siding. He said the oncoming CN freight train arrived one minute later, stopping engine to engine with the passenger train.

“I felt the rules violations were so serious the public should know,” the passenger said. “There could have been a very serious incident.”

Via Rail spokesman Malcolm Andrews confirmed the incident happened but said the two trains were never in danger of colliding.

“There was no sense the trains were right on top of each other,” Andrews said, adding the two engineers were suspended without pay on the spot.

The incident is being investigated by the Transportation Safety Board.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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