Labour Day incident happened on London-Toronto trip

Photo of a VIA Rail train

VIA Rail has relieved a train crew of its duties pending the outcome of an investigation after the train rolled past a stop signal on Labour Day. The train was heading to Toronto from London, Ont. (File Photo)

A VIA train travelling from London, Ont., to Toronto rolled past a stop signal in Burlington in a Labour Day incident that prompted VIA to immediately replace the train’s crew.

​A Transportation Safety Board (TSB) incident report says that at about 5:14 p.m. on Sept. 5, a VIA train rolled about six metres past a signal indicating stop. The incident happened near Aldershot, Ont., a Burlington neighbourhood just east of Hamilton.

The stop signal was in place because a GO train on its way to Niagara from Toronto had recently passed over an intersection point ahead of the VIA train.

A statement from VIA said although the VIA train rolled past the stop signal, it came to a full halt more than 760 metres from the spot where the GO train had crossed.

When the VIA train stopped, the GO train “was already beyond the intersection heading towards Niagara and there were no trains on the same line,” the VIA statement said.

“It was not close to a collision and there was no imminent danger,” the statement says.

And although it wasn’t a near-miss, VIA says it considers any incident very serious in which train crews fail to obey a trackside signal.

“Like in your car, if you run a red light or a stop sign you always put yourself in grave danger,” the statement says. “For this reason, as soon as one of VIA Rail’s [trains] is involved on a rule violation, we stop the train, we suspend the crew and replace them immediately with a new crew.”

Via said it took time to get a new crew to the train, which was stopped on the tracks for more than 90 minutes until the new crew arrived.

Engineers temporarily suspended pending investigation

Via says the train’s engineers “have been temporarily relieved of their duties until the internal investigation is concluded.”

The incident, which the TSB calls a “movement exceeding the limits of authority” will not result in a full TSB probe because there were no injuries and no equipment was damaged.

Sean Karow was a passenger on the train when it stopped about one hour into its two-hour trip from London. He said passengers were originally only told the train was stopping due to a “service condition.”

“People were upset,” Karow told CBC News. “Initially we weren’t told why we were stopped.”

Only later did passengers learn the train was stopped because the crew was being replaced, Karow said.

VIA apologizes, offers travel credit

Passengers were sent a notice from VIA president Yves-Desjardins Siciliano apologizing for the incident but his apology also didn’t explain why the train was stopped and the crew replaced. Affected passengers were offered a travel credit to be used on a future VIA trip.

VIA did not issue a news release about the incident and provided its statement in response to inquiries from CBC News.

Karow said VIA’s messages to passengers about why the train stopped could have been clearer.

“To me this is pretty serious,” said Karow. “It’s like an airplane flying with one engine burned out and not telling passengers.”

The TSB has flagged as an industry-wide safety concern incidents in which train crews fail to obey trackside signals.

The Sept. 5 incident happened not far from the spot where a VIA train derailed and its locomotive flipped over in February of 2012, killing three crew members and injuring 45 passengers.

In its investigation into that deadly derailment, the TSB found that the crew misinterpreted a signal warning them to slow down. In its report, the TSB called on the railway industry to implement what’s called positive train control (PTC) systems on all Canadian railways.

Such systems can override control of trains when crews fail to obey signals that tell them to stop or slow down.

Source: CBC News Hamilton