The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is concerned Transport Canada's lack of firm action indicates there is no clear strategy in place to address the rail safety issues identified by the board.
The TSB released its assessment of Transport Canada’s response to the three recommendations it made following its investigation into the February 2012 VIA Rail Canada Burlington accident, where three locomotive engineers died and dozens of passengers were injured when VIA No. 92 derailed at a crossover en route from Niagara Falls to Toronto.
“We think the TSB has made a compelling case for these recommendations. They are definitely aimed at improving safety,” said Wendy Tadros, chair of the TSB. “Two of these recommendations are on our Watchlist (following signal indications and on-board voice and video recorders) and their implementation will bring down the risk of another accident like Burlington.”
The first recommendation called upon Transport Canada to require physical fail-safe train controls, beginning with Canada’s high-speed rail corridors. Transport Canada is taking some action to study the issue, but the TSB cautions that this study needs to result in a clear and definitive action plan to ensure trains will automatically slow down and stop when they are supposed to.
While Transport Canada accepted the second recommendation on in-cab video cameras in locomotives, it stopped short of requiring them and, instead, as with voice recordings, is encouraging voluntary installation. The TSB believes a voluntary approach does not go far enough and will not ensure that the vast majority of locomotives in Canada will be equipped with essential recorders.
The TSB is optimistic with the proposed action on its third recommendation. Transport Canada plans to start the regulatory process by March 2014, requiring that crashworthiness standards for new locomotives also apply to rebuilt passenger and freight locomotives.
“While it is positive that Transport Canada accepts the recommendations,” added Tadros, “Canadians deserve a clear strategy and timely action plan to implement these recommendations.”
The TSB will continue to monitor progress on these recommendations and will reassess them on a regular basis.