Rail Safety Advisory Letter 10/17

Assessment of the safety impact of road accidents in the vicinity of railway crossings

Place du Centre
4th Floor
200 Promenade du Portage
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 1K8

18 July 2017 617-10/17
R16D0092

Letter addressed to Transport Canada

SUBJECT:
Rail Safety Advisory Letter – 10/17
Assessment of the safety impact of road accidents in the vicinity of railway crossings

On 20 September 2016, at approximately 1440, passenger train No. 600 (the train) operated by VIA Rail Canada Inc. (VIA) left Harvey-Junction, Quebec, proceeding to Montréal, Quebec, on Canadian National Railway (CN) tracks.

At approximately 1605, the train was travelling south at 60 mph and was approaching the crossing with Route 348, at Mile 75.34 on the CN Joliette Subdivision. When the train was approximately 2000 feet from the crossing, the warning system was activated and worked as intended. At that time, a tractor-trailer loaded with sand was approaching the crossing from the west. At the crossing, the tractor-trailer was unable to stop and entered the crossing as the train was arriving and it hit the right side of the lead locomotive.

The tractor-trailer was pushed southward and came to a stop in the ditch. The first coach car of the train derailed but remained upright. The right side of the other cars and of both locomotives was damaged. The truck driver was seriously injured and two passengers sustained minor injuries (TSB Occurrence No. R16D0092).

According to Transport Canada's (TC) Grade Crossings Inventory, in 2016, the occurrence crossing was in 1944th position. This list provides a ranking of risk using the GradeX tool, an internal web-based analysis tool that compares crossings against each other, based on the following factors:

  • Transportation Safety Board (TSB) data on rail occurrences;
  • The volume of road and railway traffic;
  • Maximum train and vehicle speeds;
  • Number of tracks and lanes;
  • Urban or rural environment; and
  • Warning systems in place at the crossing (i.e. gates, bells, lights).

TC's risk assessment uses several criteria, including accident history at a given crossing based on the TSB database. However, TSB data only pertain to occurrences directly involving railway equipment. According to the TSB railway occurrence database, there was only one other accident involving a train and a road vehicle at this crossing during the 20-year period from September 1997 to September 2016.

Accidents that occurred in the vicinity of the crossing are not recorded by the TSB. However, data from the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) indicate that, over the same period, there were six other accidents in the vicinity of the crossing. Those six accidents reveal the following:

  • Five accidents involved heavy vehicles.
  • On two separate occasions, while a train was at the crossing, heavy vehicles travelling east were unable to stop in time. The drivers had to drive their vehicles into the ditch to avoid colliding with the train.
  • On three occasions, vehicles travelling east collided with a vehicle at this crossing.

Although the above accidents only involved road vehicles, they were nonetheless caused by the presence of the crossing and should therefore be taken into consideration when assessing the safety of the crossing.

When the risk assessment of a crossing is based only on accidents entered in the railway occurrence database and does not take into account other accidents that occurred in the vicinity of the crossing, the real risks to the public may be underestimated. As a result, resources may not be allocated to the most appropriate locations to reduce risks to the public. Therefore, Transport Canada may wish to consider including accidents that occurred in the vicinity of railway crossings to assess their impact on safety.

Yours sincerely,

Original signed by

Kirby Jang
Director
Investigation Operations, Rail/Pipeline

Background information

TSB Occurrence:

R16D0092

Contacts:

Ian Perkins
Senior Regional Investigator – Rail/Pipeline
TSB Dorval, Quebec
(514) 633-2941