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News release

Associated links (R12T0038)

TSB Investigation Update and Renewed Call for Voice Recorders on Canadian Trains

Toronto, Ontario, 01 March 2012 – The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) team, led by Investigator-in-Charge Tom Griffith, continues its investigation into the VIA Rail accident on 26 February 2012, in Burlington, Ontario.

The TSB team is currently in the “field phase” of the investigation and has obtained some key information. Unfortunately, the lack of on-board voice or video recordings is making this investigation challenging.

“In Canada, we have voice recorders aboard aircraft and ships, but not yet on trains,” said Wendy Tadros, Chair of the TSB. “As early as 2003, the Board made a recommendation calling for voice recorders on locomotives. In light of this latest accident, I urge Transport Canada and the railway industry to take immediate action on this important safety issue.”

In the 2003 TSB Investigation Report (R99T0017), the Board recommended that:

The Department of Transport, in conjunction with the railway industry, establish comprehensive national standards for locomotive data recorders that include a requirement for an on-board cab voice recording interfaced with on-board communications systems.

“Voice recordings allow investigators to understand the environment in which crews operated and the decisions they made leading up to an accident,” added Tadros. “The lack of this information in rail investigations deprives the TSB of a key tool it needs to help make Canadians safer.”

What We Know To Date

At 15:30 Eastern Standard Time on February 26, VIA Rail passenger train 92, en route from Niagara Falls to Toronto, proceeding eastward on CN's Oakville Subdivision, entered the crossover in Burlington and derailed the locomotive and 5 coaches. The locomotive struck a building after it derailed and was totally destroyed. Many passengers were injured, and tragically, the 3 crew members in the cab of the locomotive were fatally injured.

The TSB investigation team has now begun to examine the data from the locomotive event recorder (the “black box”). It can now be confirmed that the train entered the crossover from track 2 to track 3 at approximately 67 mph. The maximum authorized speed at that crossover is 15 mph.

Next Steps

Once the field phase is complete, investigators will begin a thorough analysis of the information gathered. The team will attempt to determine why the train entered the crossover at more than four times the authorized speed for that area. Witness interviews will be conducted, and the following will also be examined: the Rail Traffic Control communications, design and function of the switch, functioning of the signal system, as well as the crashworthiness of the cab for the safety of the crew to identify any technical problems, and to understand if any of these factors influenced the crew's performance.

When we find safety deficiencies, we will communicate them to the regulator and the industry. The findings as to causes, contributing factors and risks, along with the factual information and analysis, will be published in the final investigation report.

See the investigation page for more information.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-994-8053