Rail Safety Advisory Letter 617-08/18

Breach in the fence of the public walkway fastened to the St-Maurice River bridge

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

14 November 2018

Safety advisory letter 617-08/18
Related occurrence: R18Q0075

Letter addressed to Transport Canada

Subject: Rail Safety Advisory Letter – 617-08/18: Breach in the fence of the public walkway fastened to the St-Maurice River bridge

On 12 September 2018, at about 1550 Eastern Standard Time, VIA Rail Canada Inc. (VIA) passenger train P60321-12, consisting of 1 locomotive, 1 passenger car and 1 baggage car, was proceeding westward at the allowable speed of 45 mph on the Canadian National Railway Company (CN) St-Maurice Subdivision. While the train was approaching the railway bridge over the Saint-Maurice River (Mile 69.1), the train crew observed two children on the deck of the bridge. The crew members immediately applied the emergency brakes, but the train was unable to stop before fatally striking one of the children (TSB Occurrence No. R18Q0075).

Attached to the north side of the railway bridge span, there is a public walkway for pedestrians, cyclists and small recreational vehicles. On the day of the occurrence, several children, aged between 7 and 10, entered the walkway at the east end. A breach in the fence of the walkway, at the northeast end of bridge span 1, allowed two of the children to access the deck of the bridge and walk westward (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Breach in the fence of the walkway at the northeast end of the railway bridge
Breach in the fence of the walkway at the northeast end of the railway bridge

Shortly thereafter, the children who had remained on the walkway observed a train approaching and immediately warned the 2 children who were walking on the deck. While one child was able to return to the walkway in time to reach safety, the other child was not able to reach the walkway before the collision.

There were no signs in the vicinity of the bridge to indicate a hazard or specifically prohibit access to the railway bridge (Figure 2).

Figure 2. East end of the railway bridge over the Saint-Maurice River
East end of the railway bridge over the Saint-Maurice River

The public walkway had been built following an agreement (dated 15 February 1972) between CN and the federal government. This agreement, which remains valid to this day, allowed for the construction, maintenance and repair of a pedestrian bridge (walkway), including the steel access ramps at each end of the bridge.

The breach in the fence at the east end of the walkway allowed pedestrians access to the deck of the bridge. It is unknown when the breach in the fence was first established. Given the risks associated with unauthorized pedestrian access to the railway bridge, Transport Canada may wish to verify the frequency of inspections involving the walkway and related signage (as appropriate) to address unauthorized access to the bridge.

Original signed by

Kirby Jang
Director
Investigation Operations, Rail/Pipeline

Cc.

  • Canadian National
  • VIA Rail Canada Inc.

Background information

Occurrence No.

R18Q0075

Contacts

Manuel Kotchounian, Engineering Specialist/Senior Investigator, Pipeline, Head Office, Gatineau, Quebec

Guy Laporte, Regional Senior Investigator, Dorval Regional Office, Quebec

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