Ottawa police are investigating possible mischief at railway crossings in south Ottawa after meeting with Via Rail to discuss ongoing signal malfunctions.
Const. Marc Soucy said police met to review any evidence Via Rail may have, and to determine if a criminal investigation was warranted. They later announced an investigation had begun.
Federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt had been calling for an investigation, saying there could be a criminal element to the problem, but she gave no specific information.
On Thursday, a statement from Raitt's office stated she, Via Rail and the Ministry of Transportation have information that makes them “suspect technical malfunctions may not be the only reason for the current rash of problems.”
Via and Transport Canada have thoroughly “examined all potential scenarios” that could be causing the malfunctions at the crossing on Fallowfield Road, the statement added.
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Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder have publicly called on Via to fix the issues. In response, Via stationed employees at three separate crossings to watch for and fix problems 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Vandalism, copper wire theft could cause issues: expert
On CBC Radio’s All in a Day, rail policy expert Greg Gormick said vandalism and the theft of copper wire are possible criminal causes for the railway issues.
But Gormick, who has worked for Via, CN Rail, CP and several MPs in the past, believes Via has left people in the dark about the issues, and needs to be clearer.
'We’re not morons. Please tell us what’s going on.' - Greg Gormick, rail policy expert
“Who’s in charge, the Keystone cops? You can’t get a straight answer out of Via. You get contradictions within their answers if you can even get anything out of them,” said Gormick. “I’m not impressed.”
Gormick said the new management of Via Rail, which has been in place since 2009, has been tight-lipped. He said the company’s behaviour is a signal it's in turmoil and “under the microscope.”
He added that while speculation is not necessary, more information needs to be released on the recent railway issues because Via operates in the public realm.
“We’re not morons. Please tell us what’s going on. And what I see coming from Via I just think is absolutely unacceptable, especially from a Crown corporation that’s controlled by the government on our behalf,” Gormick said.
- On mobile? Click here to listen to the interview with rail policy expert Greg Gormick.
Coun. Diane Deans has suggested rail travel should be halted along the troubled south Ottawa crossings to avoid any dangerous incidents. That would redirect the Ottawa-Toronto-Montreal line and Gormick said he doesn’t believe that would be a viable option.