Malfunctioning crossing signals in Barrhaven to be watched 24/7

Via Rail says a team of staff will be on site 24/7 to monitor level train crossing signals in Barrhaven that have malfunctioned at least nine times in recent months.

On-site deployment follows multiple level crossing signal malfunctions in recent months

Via Rail announced Friday that it will keep staff at three level train crossings to monitor signals. 3:08

Via Rail says a team of staff will be on site 24/7 to monitor three level train crossing signals in Barrhaven that have malfunctioned at least nine times in recent months.

The three crossings are in the immediate area of the crash between an OC Transpo bus and a Via train in September that killed six people.

Mayor Jim Watson emailed city councillors and other city staff with the Via update on Friday afternoon, just hours after the crossing signals on Fallowfield Road malfunctioned again, causing traffic issues around the Transitway.

Via Rail also issued a media release.

"This area encompasses the crossings at Fallowfield Road, Woodroffe Avenue and the OC Transpo Transitway," according to a Via Rail media release.

"Since this morning and until further notice, personnel will be attending at these locations, 24 hours per day, seven days a week. These workers will monitor the function of the automatic warning devices, take necessary measures to ensure public safety in the case a device goes into fail-safe mode and make necessary repairs, if needed."

'I don't have every confidence,' Barrhaven councillor says

Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder told CBC Radio host Alan Neal Friday that while she's pleased with the monitoring decision, she has lost some faith in Via Rail.

"At this point I don't have every confidence. I think I lost that confidence quite a while ago," she said. "And so I'm counting on the public to continue to be cognizant of the fact that you're crossing the tracks. And they are. This is where we live, this is how we live. But I want you to make sure that you are making the call, checking the tracks and being safe."

The councillor also said she's unhappy with the way Via reacted to media coverage of the malfunctions.

"They have actually said to people, well, it's only because of the tragedy that the media is paying more attention to it. Excuse me? Is that an acceptance of the fact that you have a malfunctioning set of signals that that's OK? ... I'm sorry, it's my people, it's the residents in Barrhaven that are making the call to tell when there's a problem for your own property.

"You need to take care of it," she said.

Lights flashing, arm up Friday morning

Ottawa police said around 9:25 a.m. Friday that the lights were on at the Fallowfield Road crossing near Woodroffe Avenue, but the crossing arm was up.

Crews work to repair the lights of a crossing signal on Fallowfield Road in Ottawa Friday, April 4, 2014. (Simon Gardner/CBC)
Driver Neil Farr said he saw the crossing signals affecting traffic since around 8:50 a.m.

"Traffic stopped including Transitway buses for approx 5-6 minutes, then cars started to run the red lights as there was no train present," he said in an email. "When I passed through there were about 6 or 7 buses stopped on the Transitway."

Ottawa police said around 10:45 a.m. the crossing signals were working properly again and their officers were leaving the scene.

There has been no word from Via Rail on the cause of this latest malfunction.

Mayor spoke with Via earlier this week

That crossing and another nearby have been the focus of residents, City of Ottawa officials and Via Rail since September's fatal bus-train crash, which happened at the Woodroffe level rail crossing.

Earlier this week, Watson said he spoke to Via Rail's acting president, Steven del Bosco, about the crossing issues, saying there had been eight in the past three months.

"Mr. Del Bosco has given me his personal assurance that fixing these technical issues is a priority for Via Rail on which they are working very diligently," Watson wrote on Tuesday.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada also issued a report in February asking the city and Via Rail to come up with rules for OC Transpo drivers when rail crossings are malfunctioning.

On Saturday, a spokesman for MP John Baird said in a statement Baird is "tremendously frustrated with the ongoing problems at the rail crossings."

"He wants the situation fixed immediately and is working with Transport Minister Lisa Raitt to hold VIA's feet to the fire to get it done," the statement read.