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Rail Safety Advisory Letter 617-02/18

Deterrence of trespassing activity on railway property

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

17 May 2018

Safety advisory letter 617-02/18
Related occurrence: R18T0058, R18T0070, R18T0075

Letter addressed to:
Transport Canada
Operation Lifesaver Canada

Subject: Rail Safety Advisory Letter – 617-02/18: Deterrence of trespassing activity on railway property

Between 18 March 2018 and 12 April 2018, 3 trespassing occurrences that happened in southern Ontario were reported to the TSB. In each of these occurrences, the trespassers had not considered the risks involved with trespassing on railway property and their misadventure led to serious or fatal injuries.

On 18 March 2018, at approximately 0115,Footnote 1 2 trespassers boarded onto the side of a tank car of a slow-moving westbound Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) freight train on the North Toronto Subdivision in Toronto, Ontario. The trespassers had accessed the tracks from a pathway that led to a gap between the fencing and the overpass barrier immediately northwest of the grade-separated crossing (Mile 3.48) at Howland Avenue (Figure 1). Shortly thereafter, the train rapidly accelerated and the trespassers were not able to safely disembark from the car.

Figure 1. Pathway up the embankment at Howland Avenue (arrow pointing to gap)
Pathway up the embankment at Howland Avenue (arrow pointing to gap)

After travelling about 20 miles at speeds of up to 50 mph, the train decelerated while ascending a grade. Both trespassers jumped from the train as it was proceeding at about 20 mph at the Wolfedale Road public crossing, Mile 16.82 of the CP Galt Subdivision in Mississauga, Ontario. Both trespassers sustained injuries upon contacting the ground. One of the trespassers remained on the track. A few minutes later, at about 0150, this trespasser was struck by a following westbound CP freight train and sustained additional serious injuries. The crew of the following train did not see the trespasser until just before impact. The crew initiated an emergency brake application and the train stopped about 590 feet further down the track. Both trespassers were transported to hospital (TSB occurrence R18T0058).

On 05 April 2018, at about 1800, a CP yard assignment was proceeding at approximately 5 mph in Hamilton, Ontario, with a cut of cars destined for CP's Hamilton Yard. Near Mile 0.5 of the Hamilton Belt Line Spur, a group of young children were playing unsupervised near the railway right-of-way. In the vicinity, a well-worn footpath led to the railway tracks (Figure 2). As the train passed though this location, one of the children accessed the footpath, approached the train, fell and was run over by the train, sustaining serious injuries. The railway tracks pass through a residential area with apartment buildings and homes backing on to the tracks. Access to the tracks is partially protected by fencing in some areas. However, in other areas, such as where the children were playing, the railway tracks can be easily accessed by the public (TSB occurrence R18T0070).

Figure 2. Worn pathway leading to the railway tracks
Worn pathway leading to the railway tracks

On 12 April 2018, at about 1455, a Goderich-Exeter Railway (GEXR) train assignment was proceeding westward at about 35 mph when it struck and fatally injured a trespasser at Mile 47.9 of the GO Transit Guelph Subdivision, in Guelph, Ontario. Wearing headphones, the trespasser was walking westward on the railway tracks facing away from the train. Although it is unknown exactly where the trespasser accessed the tracks, a number of well-worn pathways were present, extending from the east side of the road (Victoria Road North) to the right-of-way (Figure 3) (TSB occurrence R18T0075).

Figure 3. Worn pathways at the east side of Victoria Road North
Worn pathways at the east side of Victoria Road North

In the 3 occurrences, unauthorized pathways were present leading to the railway right-of-way. The worn pathways indicate that a high frequency of trespassing had likely been occurring at these locations. This high frequency of trespassing suggests that the risks associated with such behaviour are not clearly understood by the public. In each occurrence, the trespassers were local residents who were familiar with the area. After likely observing previous trespassing activities, the trespassers’ perception of risk at these locations may have been reduced.

Figure 4 presents a summary of trespassing accidents for the past 5 years (2013-2017), as well as the number of fatalities and serious injuries resulting from these accidents. In 2017, across Canada, there were 81 trespassing accidents on federally regulated railways, 53 of which resulted in fatalities and 23 of which resulted in serious injuries.

Figure 4. Trespassing accidents, 2013-2017
Graph of trespassing accidents from 2013 to 2017

Over the past 5 years, trespassing accidents have been increasing. In 2018, the year-to-date data indicates that this trendFootnote 2 seems to be continuing.

Trespassing accidents often result in serious injuries or death. As such, more needs to be done to deter trespassing activity in order to reduce the number of trespassing accidents. Given the inherent risks of trespassing on railway property, Transport Canada, Operation Lifesaver, railway companies, and local municipalities may wish to review and modify their strategies (as necessary) to control access to railway property, to effectively enforce trespassing-related laws, and to educate people of the related hazards.

Original signed by

Kirby Jang
Investigation Operations, Rail/Pipeline


Background information

Occurrence No.



Nathalie Lepage, Senior Investigator/Standards and Performance Officer, Head Office, Gatineau, Quebec

Robert Bruder, Regional Senior Investigator, Richmond Hill Regional Office, Ontario

Rob Johnston, Manager, Central Regional Operations - Rail, Head Office, Gatineau, Quebec