Via Rail trains to slow down at 6 south Ottawa railway crossings

As a federal minister and Via Rail request a police investigation, the company announces six temporary measures at south Ottawa railway crossings

Via Rail has announced temporary measures as signal issues persist at six railway crossings in south Ottawa, which includes forcing trains to run at a reduced speed.

The company also announced late Thursday employees would be stationed at the locations to make sure people stop at the crossings when the signals are malfunctioning.

Also, Via Rail said it would consider installing cameras at the crossings to minimize technician response times and it would request a police investigation into the railway issues.

The slowing trains would cause longer traffic stops, the statement added. The stops affected are Woodroffe Avenue, the OC Transpo Transitway, Fallowfield Road, Greenbank Road, Jockvale Road and Strandherd Road.

The City of Ottawa responded by saying it still hopes a permanent solution is found in the next couple of weeks.

Police investigation called by Raitt

On Thursday, Federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said she wanted Ottawa police and CN Rail police to investigate problems with the Via Rail crossing on Fallowfield Road because they believe it goes beyond technical malfunctions.

Raitt said Via Rail had exhausted all possible explanations for the issue and there is believed to be something else at the root of the problem.

This comes one day after problems at yet another rail crossing in Barrhaven had some city councillors questioning whether Via Rail will be able to solve its ongoing issues in the area.

Via train passenger Will Egan was on a commuter train that left Ottawa for Toronto at 3 p.m. yesterday and said a train employee announced a problem shortly thereafter.

"We would need to slow down, because there were problems with the crossing, and on one of them the barriers were up and the lights were not on," said Egan.

A commuter waiting in their car at the Greenbank crossing tweeted a photo of exactly what Egan describes.

Federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt says more than just technical malfunctions are leading to issues with Via Rail's level crossing on Fallowfield Road.
VIA rail has acknowledged the photo is accurate, and said it is taking special precautions when going through the area. Trains have to come to a full stop at the crossing and then a crew worker descends from the cab and walks the train across.

Barrhaven councillor Jan Harder also saw the precautions herself.

"The train is in the middle of the intersection being walked across by a staff person, but Via says this is OK. [If] I'm going through the intersection, should I have confidence?" she asks.

Fallowfield crossing has had a series of problems

In recent weeks, the Fallowfield railway crossing has malfunctioned on multiple occasions. Via Rail continues to monitor that problem and has placed workers on site 24/7 while they work to resolve the issues.

Harder said she hears constantly from commuters who see strange things happening at the crossings.

"I'm appealing to people to keep letting us know, because I have zero confidence that this is going to be fixed quickly, and I see it happening every single day," she said.

Councillor Diane Deans, who heads the city's transit commission, said it might be time to suspend train service entirely through the area until the signal problems can be fixed.

The city commissioned a study into level rail crossings after an OC Transpo bus collided with a Via commuter train in Barrhaven last September, killing six people.

Safety consultants MMM Group told the city's transit commission Wednesday OC Transpo buses should not stop at railway crossings when warning lights aren't activated because it might be more dangerous to do so.