Thanks to a reader tip, but i’ll consider this far from “authoritive” as a start date seems still not finalized:
Via Rail nearly has a major accident and no reports in the news? TSB: On 6 June 2006 VIA Rail narrowly avoided a major catastrophe near Stratford
Chalk this up to how long it takes the TSB to report on accidents, but on 6 June 2006, if you were on VIA Rail #87 you came within 2-3 minutes of being in a major accident with a freight train.
Here’s the summary of events:
- On this day VIA Rail, west of Petersburg, Ontario was travelling on it’s merry way and presumably recieved authority to pass a freight train
- They (VIA Rail) recieved the wrong authority and mistakenly contacted the wrong GEXR freight train, none of whom caught the error
- The vigilence of the ACTUAL Freight crew near Stratford that was supposed to give them authority and noticed the mistake avoided the accident thanks to a wayside defect detector
- The VIA train and GEXR Freight trian came within 1 mile of each other (3 minutes train time) and narrowly avoided the accident
- But the freight or passenger train employees did not report the incident (how it was actually reported is beyond me) – a culture of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ seems to persist in railroading (which is noted in the report)
How come none of this was reported in the media? 90 people come minutes from a major change of dying, major lapse of safety occures and no one is informed.
The good news: VIA Rail and GEXR have taken steps to minimize the possibility of this type of accident happening again — they installed Radio towers (as opposed to using cell phones for train clearances) in the last 2 years and this would have avoided the accident from nearly occuring should it have had happened with radio towers in service.
The bad news — The Guelph subdivision is still “Dark Territory” and until GO/VIA actually get together and implement Centralized Traffic Control as they had planned to do for GO/VIA proposed expansion and EA, the risk of an accident, although low, is still higher than it should be, and is more so since GO is implementing additional trains on our line without any new signalling improvements for safety.
Media organizations: Get the word out, inform the public, and let’s get policy changed to improve safety of our railways. If this was a road accident something would have been done about it, but alas here we are!
Another year, another fatality on the Railways around Guelph.
These are all preventable, and I will continue to tally the problem until we start to take some action:
On average, there is ONE death on Guelph railways every single year and I have been monitoring the statistics for 10 years now. That means since 2001, I have noticed 10 deaths on Guelph railways.
While the responsibility for accidents usually falls to the person who is injured or killed, the Railways, the City, and Developers adjacent to the line should all share to help fight the problem. Here are some thoughts that may prove sensible in the hands of Guelph Councillors, Developers, and perhaps Railway officials (CN Rail, GEXR, and GO Transit – anyone listening?)
* Developers should be forced to pay into a fund to fence off all railway rights of ways adacent to residential development projects or areas of major ingress or egress of tresspassers
* Railways should enforce tresspassing laws (this is enforceable under federal law and a ticket costs $165 for tresspassing anywhere on railway property) as well as better maintain adequate warning signage. While CN police do patrol around Ontario, they are never noticed in Guelph. Hello?
* Railways should fence off major trespassing areas or work with adjacent property owners to solve these problems for existing developed areas.
* The City should take responsibility for major trespassing areas along city parks (Margaret Greene has seen two or three fatalities recently!) — fencing would be a great start.
* The city would be advised to put into development policy either a method to enact standards for fencing along railway rights of way, funded through development charges, and cooperate with railways to set a policy as well as any cost sharing initiatives that may be available
* Where is the Operation Lifesaver presence in Guelph and how can some of that funding be directed this way to teach young people not to trespass on the railway?
Two things to note here: Most of the fatalities around Guelph are *outside* of the downtown core as this is where trains travel at up to 100 KM/H and lots of people are caught walking along the right of way as a shortcut home. Downtown trains have a maximum speed of 15 MPH and fatalities are rare, but still occur. This is why fencing has gone up downtown, to the dismay of many, and to my delight, as this will save lives.
The Guelph Junction Railway has had little or no fatalities that I have been aware of related to an accident involving a train and a trespasser within the Guelph city limits, but further research may have to be done in order to verify this for fact. The Guelph Junction Railway has far fewer trains and also operates at a very low rate of speed.
Post your thoughts and comments below
-Steve Host, Guelph