A high number of railway crossing collisions in Manitoba in recent years is a cause for concern, says a rail safety advocate.
The deadly crash in Ottawa between an OC Transpo bus and a Via Rail train has cast a spotlight on the issue of public rail safety across Canada.
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Twenty-five vehicle-train accidents were reported in Manitoba in 2012, compared to seven in 2011, according to the federal Transportation Safety Board.
"Percentage-wise, it's a large number," said Raynald Marchand, general manager of the Canada Safety Council. "Collision-wise, it's certainly quite high."
A van collided with a train on Fermor Avenue in St. Boniface in January 2012, on the railway tracks between Autumnwood Drive and Archibald Street.
The driver of the van, who survived that crash, told CBC News after the accident that he thought the rail crossing should have had control arms.
Economic boom behind increase in collisions
Marchand attributes the increase in vehicle-train crashes in Manitoba to an economic boom across the Prairies.
That boom has led to an increase in "people moving into the province, the number of trucks and trains that are in operation," he said.
"You know, they must stop for the trains because the trains just can't stop for them," he added.
Manitoba Public Insurance warns that collisions involving vehicles and trains rarely end well for those driving the vehicles.
"If you're approaching a train crossing, you need to be aware if a train is coming, so take appropriate action - that would be stop," said MPI spokesperson Brian Smiley.
Of the 25 rail crossing collisions recorded last year, 19 of them took place in rural areas.
"In some areas in rural Manitoba, the train crossings are basically unmarked. They have the cross arms [but] that's it. There's no lights, there's no bells," Smiley said.
"We know that that's changing, but it takes time."
RCMP have responded to 11 railway crossing accidents so far this year. No fatalities have been reported.