Richmond, BC — Citing the complex design of the Crush Crescent–Glover Road railway crossing and driver distraction as contributing factors, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released its investigation report (R15V0191) into the 2015 fatal crossing accident in Langley, British Columbia.
On the morning of 11 September 2015, a Canadian National (CN) train struck an ambulance at a railway crossing in Langley. The two paramedics inside the ambulance, including the one who was driving, were injured. The patient who was being transported in the back of the ambulance later succumbed to injuries sustained in this accident.
The investigation determined that the ambulance entered the intersection when the grade crossing warning system (GCWS) had been activated. The crossing bell was ringing, the flashing lights were activated, and the gates were descending. The driver, whose cell phone was active at the time, was intending to make a left-hand turn, but stopped on the tracks when a lowered crossing gate for the opposite lane appeared to be blocking the way forward. In an attempt to fit the ambulance between the main track and that lowered gate, the ambulance was edged forward, but not enough to move it clear of the approaching train. It was later found that the lowered gate was not an impediment to the ambulance moving forward.
The investigation identified the complex design of the crossing—with multiple lanes, two distinct rail tracks close together, and many different visual cues, some of them harder to see or appearing to be contradictory—as a contributing factor in this accident. Also, the distraction by cell phone use likely decreased the driver’s ability to detect warning stimuli in the environment while traversing the crossing.
“Technology has done much to make the interactions of road vehicles and trains safer. It can also do more. But drivers too must do their part,” said Peter Hickli, TSB investigator-in-charge.
The TSB issued two rail safety advisories (RSA) as a result of this investigation. The first advisory (RSA 07-16) relates to safety issues arising from conflicting information given by the railway crossing and road traffic signals at the Crush Crescent–Glover Road crossing in Langley. The second advisory (RSA 06-17) indicates that Transport Canada, the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Canadian Pacific (the railway owner), and the Township of Langley should resolve jurisdictional responsibility for roadway markings at this crossing, and for other crossings in the province of BC where this responsibility is unclear.
Since the accident, a number of steps have been taken to improve safety at this railway crossing, by making the interaction between drivers and their environment as unambiguous as possible. These improvements include relocating the warning system and upgrading its equipment, installing flashing lights overhead for better visibility, repainting some pavement markings, and adding an LED sign warning of an approaching train.