Rail news release 2010

TSB # R02/2010


(Gatineau, Quebec, September 9, 2010) - Highlighting a number of design flaws in Dorman Road public crossing, the Transportation Safety Board today released its investigation report into a fatal 2009 collision between a vehicle and a passenger train in Nanaimo, British Columbia.

The crash took place when a vehicle carrying three family members stopped on the crossing at Dorman Road just after exiting highway 19A, the city's main north-south route. It was then struck by a southbound VIA Rail passenger train. The collision killed two of the vehicle's occupants and left the third seriously injured. Neither of the train's two crew members, nor any of the 37 passengers, were hurt.

According to investigators, the automated warning devices at the crossing were functioning. However, the driver likely didn't notice the flashing lights or hear the warning bell until 14 metres from the crossing - an insufficient distance to safely stop the moving vehicle.

"This crossing wouldn't be built this way today," said Peter Hickli, the TSB's Investigator in Charge. "Crossings like Dorman Road were designed to meet the standards at the time of construction, but today's standards are much higher." The TSB notes modern crossing designs have evolved, and now provide more distance for vehicles to stop, greater advance warning to drivers, and better sightlines.

Adding to the risk, although the rail line is used infrequently, with an average of just two to three trains daily, it is adjacent to a busy four-lane highway. This means that drivers exiting the highway onto Dorman Road find themselves in the middle of a railway crossing very quickly.

"Raising these safety issues is a step in the right direction," said Hickli, "but making this crossing safer will take a concerted effort from Southern Railway of Vancouver Island, the BC Safety Authority and the City of Nanaimo. We need to learn from what happened and take steps to reduce the risk of such a tragedy happening again."

The release of the report comes only months after the TSB issued a highly publicized safety Watchlist, which drew attention to the issue of collisions between vehicles and passenger trains in busy rail corridors. "While the Victoria Subdivision is not a 'busy rail corridor', the fact remains that it too would benefit from the measures called for in the TSB's Watchlist," said Hickli. To help reduce the risk of collisions at crossings, the Watchlist highlights the need for improved crossing design and better advance warning for drivers, as well as safety assessments.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation 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
Email: media@tsb.gc.ca