Monday, December 11, 2017

TSB finds Quebec crash partially due to obstructed crossing signals

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View from a distance of approximately 800 feet from the crossing. View from a distance of approximately 800 feet from the crossing. Transportation Safety Board of Canada/Sûreté du Québec

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) said a key factor in a September 2016 collision between a VIA Rail passenger train and a tractor-trailer in Quebec was an obstructed view of the crossing warning system.

The accident occurred Sept. 20, 2016, when a VIA Rail passenger train traveling southward on the Joliette Subdivision was struck by a tractor-trailer at the Highway 348 crossing in Sainte-Ursule, Quebec. The track and the crossing warning system were damaged and the tractor-trailer was destroyed. The driver sustained serious injuries and two passengers on the train sustained minor injuries

The TSB investigation determined that the view of the crossing warning system was hindered by the left-hand curve that vehicles approaching from the west on Highway 348 must negotiate. While there was a sign at the curve indicating a railway crossing ahead, this sign was not equipped with lights to provide active warning of an approaching train. TSB said that in this occurrence, when the driver of the tractor-trailer was negotiating the curve, visual attention was likely focused more on the outside of the curve, rather than further ahead. By the time the driver noticed that the warning system was active and applied the brakes, there was insufficient distance to stop the tractor-trailer before the crossing.

The investigation also determined that there had been several other motor vehicle accidents in the vicinity of the Highway 348 crossing. However, road accidents that do not involve railway equipment are not specifically considered by Transport Canada, when assessing the risk at a crossing. TSB said that when crossing risk assessments are based only on rail accidents, the real risks to the public can be underestimated. The TSB issued Rail Safety Advisory 10/17 suggesting that Transport Canada consider including accidents that occurred in the vicinity of railway crossings to assess their impact on safety. According to TSB, Transport Canada did not indicate that it would take any action on this issue.

Following the accident, the Ministère des Transports, de la Mobilité durable et de l'Électrification des transports evaluated the Highway 348 crossing in Sainte-Ursule and committed to installing an advance warning sign with flashing lights on the approach to this crossing in 2018.