News release

Obstructed view of crossing warning system among factors that led to 2016 crossing collision in Sainte-Ursule, Quebec

Associated links (R16D0092)

Dorval, Quebec, 11 December 2017 – In its investigation report (R16D0092) released today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) found that the distance from which eastbound traffic on Highway 348 could see the crossing warning system in Sainte-Ursule, Quebec, was a key factor in the September 2016 collision between a VIA Rail passenger train and a tractor-trailer.

In the afternoon of 20 September 2016, a VIA Rail passenger train was travelling southward on the Joliette Subdivision. The train was struck by a tractor-trailer loaded with sand at the Highway 348 crossing in Sainte-Ursule, Quebec. The first coach of the train derailed, and the other rail cars as well as the locomotives were damaged. The tractor-trailer's fuel tanks ruptured and spilled approximately 60 gallons of fuel and approximately 1800 gallons of fuel spilled from the damaged locomotives. 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 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. 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 (TC), when assessing the risk at a crossing. Consequently, 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 (RSA) 10/17 suggesting that TC consider including accidents that occurred in the vicinity of railway crossings to assess their impact on safety. TC 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.

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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