NEWS

Ottawa bus-train crash: City of Ottawa responds to TSB update

09/24/2014 02:05 EDT | Updated 11/24/2014 05:59 EST
City of Ottawa officials are responding Wednesday afternoon to information from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada that suggests speed and distracted driving could have been factors in a fatal crash between a Via Rail train and OC Transpo bus last year.

Five passengers and the driver of OCTranspo bus 8017 died after the city bus collided with Via Rail passenger train No. 51 on the morning of Sept. 18, 2013.

The collision at a level crossing near Fallowfield station, in the south Ottawa community of Barrhaven, also injured dozens of bus passengers.

The TSB’s lead investigators Robert Johnston and Dan Di Tota gave a progress update Wednesday morning in Ottawa. Their report said the bus was travelling 67.6 km/h when the brakes were first applied, three seconds before impact, in an area where the posted limit was 60 km/h. 

The report states if the bus had been travelling the speed limit and all other factors were the same, it may have been able to stop before colliding with the train. One potential variable, it says, is how many people were on the bus, as weight affects stopping distance.

It also suggests reviewing the placement of video screens used to keep an eye on passengers on the top level of double-decker buses, without specifically implicating distraction from a screen in this particular crash.

Drivers 'periodically glance' at video screens

Drivers are told not to stare at the screen while the bus is in motion, but the report says they may need to "periodically glance" at it to make sure all passengers have been seated after the bus starts moving again. A passenger on the upper deck was standing at the time of the crash.

The report also recommends more ways to monitor and control the speeds buses travel, particularly around rail crossings.

“The public has certainly seen that any of the observations that have come our way … we have followed up on very thoroughly. The same will be done now and in the future,” said Barrhaven councillor, Jan Harder.

The report says the bus was in proper working order, and the TSB says it has found no issues with the operation of the train or crossing signals, or the condition of the track.

The train's emergency brakes were applied two seconds before impact when it was travelling at a speed of around 75 km/h.

The TSB said its investigation is continuing and reminded everyone this report is only a progress update.

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