Passenger trains colliding with vehicles

The risk of passenger trains colliding with vehicles remains too high in busy rail corridors.

Added to the Watchlist on 16 August 2010

Background

Over the past 10 years, there have been 257 accidents involving passenger trains colliding with vehicles at level crossings in Canada. Seventy-one of these occurred in the Quebec City–Windsor corridor, Canada’s busiest and most travelled train route. Warning signs at both public and private crossings are the first line of defence to help reduce the risk by making drivers aware of the crossing. Approximately one-third of public crossings in Canada have crossing gates and/or flashing lights and bells.1 Despite these warning devices, collisions between vehicles and passenger trains continue to occur.

Transport Canada has been very active since the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) highlighted this issue in 2010, and the following improvements have been initiated:

  • Developing a program to install warning systems with gates at all public grade crossings where train speeds exceed 128 km/h in the Quebec City–Windsor corridor.
  • Working with the railway industry and communities to perform safety assessments along the Quebec
    City–Windsor corridor.
  • Developing grade crossing regulations to provide better standards in high-speed corridors.
  • Developing new low-clearance advance warning signs at railway crossings in collaboration with the Transportation Association of Canada.
  • Supporting Operation Lifesaver for public education about railway safety.

The railway companies have also been active on this issue since 2010. As of June 2012, CN upgraded the warning systems on 31 public crossings and 24 private crossings in the Quebec City–Windsor corridor. CN also closed 21 crossings on this corridor, and has scheduled 3 additional crossing closures.

While some TSB recommendations have been addressed and are now rated Fully Satisfactory, a number of open recommendations remain, and are rated only Satisfactory Intent.2 The accident rate has not been significantly reduced since the TSB first placed this issue on the Watchlist.3

Solution

Transport Canada must implement new grade crossing regulations, develop enhanced standards or guidelines for certain types of crossing signs, and continue its leadership role in crossing safety assessments. A comprehensive solution must also include further improving public awareness of the dangers at railway crossings.


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  1. Source: Transport Canada (active warning devices can be found at 5606 public crossings).
  2. TSB outstanding recommendations with a rating of Satisfactory Intent are R01-05, R09-01, R09-02 and R09-04.
  3. There were 188 crossing accidents in 2009; in 2010, there were 181; in 2011, there were 169.