News release

Incomplete communication led to risk of collision between a VIA Rail train and equipment at a CN work site in Whitby, Ontario, in October 2015

Richmond Hill, Ontario, 5 October 2016 – According to its investigation report (R15T0245) released today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has determined that incomplete communication and improper signal blocking were causal in the risk of collision between a VIA Rail train and work equipment at a Canadian National Railway (CN) work site in October 2015 in Whitby, Ontario.

On 25 October 2015, before a crew started work on a CN track of the Kingston Subdivision, near Whitby, Ontario, the foreman called the CN rail traffic controller (RTC) and asked for—and received—exclusive use of the south track (which meant that trains would be operating on the north track only) between Mile 304 and Mile 305. However, the RTC inadvertently entered improper signal blocking that would still permit trains to operate on the south track past Mile 304.

Meanwhile, westbound VIA train 65 was travelling on the south track, and the crewcomplying with the rules and the signals, contacted the foreman for permission to proceed through the work site. The foreman permitted the train to proceed on the north track. The train crew, recognizing that the train was routed and would remain on the south track, contacted the foreman again to indicate that the train would be crossing over at Whitby. The train crew did not, however, specify that the train was still on the south track. The foreman responded affirmatively, still not realizing that the train was to continue on the south track. When the train crew saw the work equipment ahead, the train was brought to a stop, about a quarter of a mile past the entrance to the work area.

The investigation determined that because of incomplete communications between the foreman and the train crew, the foreman was not aware that the train had inadvertently been routed onto the south track. In its report, the TSB underscores that if standard communication protocols are not in place, the desired routing of trains may not be clearly understood.

The report makes the observation that if foremen do not have real-time display tools to help them determine which tracks are active for their work areas, improper train routing may not be identified soon enough to avoid the risk of a train entering a work area without adequate permission.

The investigation also highlighted that implementation of existing technology, such as proximity detection devices and advance warning devices, can be an effective means to warn train crews and track workers that they are approaching one another.

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

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