News release

Update on TSB investigation into 11 September 2015 fatal railway crossing collision in Langley, British Columbia

Richmond, British Columbia, 18 April 2016 – The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) continues its independent investigation into the 11 September 2015 crossing collision between an ambulance and a Canadian National train in Langley, British Columbia.

The occurrence

On 11 September 2015, a northbound Canadian National (CN) train struck an ambulance travelling eastbound at the Crush Crescent–Glover Road, located at Mile 18.81 of the Canadian Pacific (CP) Page Subdivision in Langley, British Columbia. The occupants of the ambulance were two paramedics (one driving and one attending the patient) and one patient. The paramedics sustained injuries and the patient later succumbed to injuries sustained during the collision. The members of the train crew were not injured.

What we know

  • The train was travelling at 32 mph (maximum permissible track speed at the time of the occurrence was 35 mph).
  • During a post-occurrence examination, it was determined that there were no pre-existing mechanical deficiencies on the ambulance that would have contributed to the accident.
  • The main-track crossing is protected by automatic warning devices consisting of flashing lights, a bell, and gates, which were connected to the traffic lights at the intersection.

Progress to date

  • The ambulance was examined to determine whether any mechanical deficiencies might have contributed to the collision.
  • Investigators interviewed witnesses and downloaded information from the automatic warning devices installed at the crossing.
  • The locomotive event recorder and the ambulance data recorder were evaluated.
  • Investigators reviewed the crossing design and the interconnection of the traffic signals.
  • The TSB issued a rail safety advisory (RSA) to Transport Canada concerning safety issues at the Crush Crescent-Glover Road crossing. Further details on the RSA are included below.

Transport Canada Notice

  • Transport Canada issued a Notice on 11 February 2016, to the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the Township of Langley, and the Canadian Pacific Railway.
  • The Notice indicated that the current timing configuration for traffic light pre-emption and warning system gate delay was inadequate for longer vehicles to clear the crossing safely. It was also noted that roadway pavement markings were either absent or faded, such that drivers were not provided with adequate information.
  • As a result of the Notice, some of the changes to the automatic warning devices included increasing the delay time of the crossing gate drop from 7 seconds to 12 seconds, and increasing the road traffic signal pre-emption time from 10 seconds to 15 seconds. These changes were made so that the crossing would be more suitable for use by longer vehicles.

TSB rail safety advisory

On 17 March 2016, the TSB issued a rail safety advisory (RSA) to Transport Canada concerning safety issues arising from conflicting information given by the railway crossing and road traffic signals at the Crush Crescent–Glover Road crossing. The RSA suggested that Transport Canada, British Columbia’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) might wish to review the design and functionality of the Crush Crescent–Glover Road crossing, including the interconnection of the automatic warning devices on the crossing and the road traffic signal system, to ensure that the risks to motorists at this crossing are minimized.

The British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure responded to the RSA on 13 April 2016. Its response indicates that:

  • Ministry traffic engineers have reviewed the design and operation of the railway interconnection with the traffic signal and determined that it is operating as designed.
  • The Ministry is working with CP to ensure the ongoing safe operation of this crossing and further enhancements are planned. These enhancements include an upgrade to the signal bungalow, relocation of the gate arm, and the addition of an active warning LED sign on Crush Crescent.
  • The Ministry is considering the suitability of pre-signals or other means to prevent the movement of road traffic towards the grade crossing.

Follow-up with other stakeholders

When TSB followed up with Transport Canada, it noted the following:

  • There are actually two separate crossings at this location: the automatic warning devices protect the main track while crossbucks protect the Milner storage track.
  • As currently configured, the Milner Storage track crossing must meet the sightline requirements of the Grade Crossings Regulations.
  • The location of the two separate warning devices—one active and one passive—in a single place confuses road users, who think that it is safe to approach the gates when they are active.
  • Because of the interconnection of the crossing warning system and the road traffic signals at this location, the systems can send a conflicting message to road users when a train is approaching: the traffic signals indicate green for go while the crossing warning system indicates stop.

When TSB followed up with Canadian Pacific, it indicated that it would:

  • Install a new crossing warning system, and that British Columbia’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure would install a new traffic signal controller capable of launching the gate-down process;
  • Relocate the crossing gate controlling eastward traffic to the west side of the Milner storage track. Construction on these changes will start in early July 2016.

Railway crossing safety

Railway crossing safety has been identified as one of the key risks to the transportation system, and it is included on the TSB's 2014 Watchlist. The rate of crossing accidents per million main-track train-mile decreased between 2006 and 2010 but it has been stable over the last 5 years, and the TSB is concerned that the risk of trains and vehicles colliding remains too high.

Next steps

  • The TSB continues to investigate the crossing design and the automatic warning devices, their interconnection with the traffic signals, and their timing at this location. It continues to monitor for any further safety action that may be taken.
  • The investigation will continue to examine the crossing and its operation; driver distraction and motor vehicle operation; driver training and supervision; and the operation of the trains approaching the crossing.

Railway Investigation R15V0191

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