Passengers on an OC Transpo bus in west Ottawa say they got closer to a passing train than they would have liked on Thursday morning.
A double-decker route 72 bus was heading east on Fallowfield Road just before 8 a.m. when an approaching train triggered the warning lights and crossing gate to come down. Passenger Lynne Marleau said the bus was right underneath the gates.
"All of a sudden there was a big thump and the lights and bells started flashing," she said. "I was shaking, my hands were shaking as I was taking [a] photo."
Marleau’s photo shows a Via Rail train leaving Fallowfield Station and passing in front of the bus.
Route 72 replaced route 76, which was involved in last year’s fatal bus-train crash near the same station.
Driver 'made the right decision,' OC Transpo GM says
Later Thursday, OC Transpo general manager John Manconi told reporters the bus had approached a red light at the intersection with five vehicles in front of it, including a cube van, two cars and another bus.
When the lights turned green, the vehicles and the bus began moving through the intersection. As the bus approached the light switched to yellow, and the bus driver made the decision to stop, Manconi said, adding that the bus driver's account was verified by an OC Transpo manager who was sitting on the upper level.
"He absolutely made the right decision," Manconi said. "Via Rail also confirmed that the operator of the Via train did all the right things."
The bus ended up stopping about 3.5 to 4.5 metres away from the tracks, Manconi said.
Nobody was in danger, union says
The head of the union representing OC Transpo drivers said from what he knows, the driver of the bus did everything right.
“He made the safe call, he made sure that nothing was going to happen so nobody was in danger at any point in time," said ATU Local 279 president Craig Watson. "[Passengers] can feel confident that he made the right decision and he knew what he was doing at the time."
Still, another passenger said she’s wondering about the safety of level rail crossings given the fatal crash and this morning’s incident.
"Last year I would've said sure, no problem, it's good, but now it seems like it's a constant thing that's going on," said Marcia Wiltshire.
Via Rail said it’s investigating this incident and apologized for separate issues at Greenbank and Jockvale roads, when warning signals went into "fail-safe" mode following a since-repaired equipment malfunction.