News release

TSB calls for fundamental changes in wake of 2012 VIA Rail crash near Burlington, Ontario

Burlington, Ontario, 11 June 2013 — The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is calling for fundamental changes aimed at improving the country’s rail network — beginning with an automatic, fail-safe way to slow or stop trains when a signal is missed. This is one of three recommendations emerging from a TSB investigation report (R12T0038), released today, into a fatal 2012 VIA Rail derailment near Burlington, Ontario.

On 26 February 2012, three locomotive engineers were killed and dozens of passengers were injured when VIA 92 derailed at a crossover en route from Niagara Falls to Toronto. Investigators determined within days that the train had been travelling at more than four times the allowable speed, and that the locomotive crew had not properly responded to signals requiring a slowdown to 15 mph.

The frequency of misperceived signals — approximately one per month in Canada — is a driving force behind the Board’s recommendation. "Every day, hundreds of passenger and freight trains encounter thousands of signals all over Canada," said Wendy Tadros, Chair of the TSB. "Missed signals are a real risk, and we need to drive that risk down. That’s why we’re calling for an automatic, fail-safe way to stop trains."

The TSB investigation concluded that the signals were misperceived by the crew and that several factors could have been responsible, including the unexpected presence of a work crew on the tracks. The report adds that the accident occurred at a point in the route where, 99% of the time, the crew would go straight ahead at track speed, and that such an expectation may have strongly influenced their actions.

The Board is making two further recommendations, including the installation of in-cab video cameras in all lead locomotives in mainline operations. To prevent these kinds of accidents, the TSB needs to better understand why they happen, and recordings are the key to that understanding. Finally, the Board recommends improving crew survivability by applying crashworthiness standards for new locomotives to rebuilt passenger and freight locomotives.

"We think Canadians deserve safer railways," added Tadros. "And that is why the TSB is recommending fundamental changes. We want railways where trains will automatically slow down and stop when they are supposed to, where what happens in the locomotive cab gets recorded, and where crews are given a better chance of surviving an accident."