Via Rail, city technical staff talk about recent signal failures

Technical staff from Via Rail and the City of Ottawa have talked about Via's claims OC Transpo buses are to blame for two recent failures of level rail crossing signals in Barrhaven.

Via claims OC Transpo buses failed to stop at stop line when warning lights flashed, damaged gates

Technical staff from Via Rail and the city spoke Wednesday about ongoing signal problems. 3:03

Technical staff from Via Rail and the City of Ottawa have talked about Via's claims OC Transpo buses are to blame for two recent failures of level rail crossing signals in Barrhaven.

Crews work to repair the lights of a crossing signal on Fallowfield Road in Ottawa Friday, April 4, 2014. (Simon Gardner/CBC)

Transit commission chair Diane Deans told Ottawa Morning host Hallie Cotnam Wednesday the claim "is something new being inserted into the conversation that we have not heard before."

"We don't know [if it's true] and we need to investigate," Deans said.

Deans said OC Transpo bus drivers are well trained, that she doesn't want to assume any negligence on their part, and that she doesn't believe the drivers have been negligent.

Deans also said she doesn't think Via Rail should have announced its claims through a public media release.

On Wednesday, the two sides talked over the phone about the claims but no details about the discussion were released.

"I think a week or so ago I was saying that we need to improve our communications with Via. And then Friday when they came to Ottawa and met with councillors and media in an open forum, I felt quite buoyed that the relationship had improved and the lines of communication were open," Deans said.

"But I must say yesterday when these claims were made through press release as the first point of contact with the City of Ottawa, I did feel that that was probably not appropriate. So I do think we need to continue to work on our communications with Via."

In the statement released Tuesday, Via said OC Transpo buses have twice failed to stop at a stop line when warning lights were flashing.

The first incident happened on Friday, April 25. 

Then, in the most recent incident on Monday night, Via says the OC Transpo bus stopped under the gate as the gates were coming down. It happened at about 7 p.m.

"The damage caused to the gate prevented it from remaining upright thus, triggering the fail-safe mode and extending the period during which it remained in effect with lights flashing and bells ringing," the Via statement reads. It took about 30 minutes to fix the gates, Via said.

Via calls on city to prevent future issues with buses

Via said the gates, which were broken and bent, remained down until a crew repaired them. But, in a photo of the Fallowfield crossing taken by CBC News just minutes after 7 p.m., it's clear the gates were up. 

Via's interim CEO wrote to Mayor Jim Watson and OC Transpo general manager John Manconi, asking the city to investigate the incidents and take steps to prevent them in the future.

"Via Rail will provide any assistance required by the city in ensuring that its buses approach and drive through crossings safely," Steve Del Bosco is quoted as saying.

"As well, as stated on April 10 when VIA Rail announced additional measures for these crossings, we remain interested in co-operating with the city in its installation of cameras at these crossings in order to minimize inconveniences to the public by accelerating the response times of the appropriate personnel.

"These cameras may also provide both the City of Ottawa and Via Rail with better information of activities in the area."