TSB: Misaligned switch led to inadvertent diversion of VIA Rail passenger train

Written by Jenifer Nunez, assistant editor
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Robert Taylor, via Wikimedia Commons

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released its investigation report into an occurrence where a VIA Rail Canada passenger train was unexpectedly diverted into a siding at Hegadorn, while en route from Jonquière to Montreal, QB, Canada, on August 9, 2012.


Earlier that day, a work crew was performing maintenance on a hand-operated track switch adjacent to the siding at Hegadorn. After performing the maintenance work, the crew inadvertently left the switch aligned towards the siding. Unaware of this, the crew of the passenger train noticed that it was misaligned as they approached it and attempted to stop the train, but were unable to do so before entering the siding. There was no derailment or equipment damage, nor were any passengers or train crew members injured.

The TSB said the investigation found that the work crew did not verify the exact position of the switch after completing its work. Although there is a sign that indicates the position of the switch, the sightline near the switch was reduced due to the alignment of the track, leaving the crew little time and distance to see the sign and stop the train.

There is a risk of derailment when switches are inadvertently left in the reverse position. Defenses in place include the sign that indicates the position of the switch and a rule requiring two employees to positively identify the switch position after changing it. As an added defense, railways have recently begun evaluating and installing automated systems to allow train crews to verify the switch position before they reach the switch location.

Following the occurrence, Canadian National, the track owner, issued a bulletin requiring employees to record each time a switch is handled, by whom and in what position it was left.


Categories: Intercity, Safety/Training