All aboard the death express

‘All aboard the death express’ is installment 7 in the investigation into The Turcot Train Tragedy.

by Jack Locke

Chuck, we have a problem.

Chuck Strahl, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities

I am referring to Chuck Strahl, Canada’s Minister responsible for railway transportation.

As I poke my journalistic nose into the tragic deaths of Dylan Ford, Mitchell Bracken-Guenet, and Ricardo Conesa by a VIA Rail passenger train at 3 A.M. on October 31, 2010, trying to understand what happened and why, I am getting a broad and disturbing picture of why this mishap occurred.

The majority of railway-related deaths in Canada happen to persons officially classified as “trespassers.” It’s a term used by railways to describe persons who are uninvited guests. It’s a term wrongfully used by police and government investigators to describe injured victims on railway property.

Between the years 2005 and 2010, a total of 427 Canadians died in rail accidents who were labeled as “trespassers.” They account for about two-thirds of all deaths caused by trains in our country.

Yet, in those same 5 years, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada(TSB) investigated none of those deaths. Not one. They conducted 63 formal investigations into rail incidents during that time period, but seemed to ignore the category with the largest number of deaths.

It is not an accidental oversight.

It is an institutional disregard for the lives of members of the public who are killed by railway operations. In some cases, railway negligence may be covered up by government complicity through blaming the deaths on trespassing.

The federal Railway Safety Act lists four objectives, two of which are:

1. To promote and provide for the safety of the public and personnel, and the protection of property and the environment, in the operation of railways; and

2. To recognize the responsibility of railway companies in ensuring the safety of their operations.

A 1998 government review of the Railway Safety Act said that the two major categories of railway deaths, crossings and trespassing, need to be better addressed.

“Crossings and trespassing should be afforded a higher priority and an overall strategy should be developed beyond the current plan in Direction 2006 in order to tackle these problems which now account for most railway-related fatalities.”

That was 1998. Today, as the Transportation Safety Board looks only one way, away from promoting safety of the entire public, these preventable fatalities will continue.

Chuck, do you hear me?


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4 Responses to “All aboard the death express”

  1. publicpoetry Says:

    Reblogged this on Lockeblog and commented:

    I am reposting my series on The Turcot Train Tragedy as it approaches the second anniversary of that horrible event. Alas, with no government accountability. Installment 7.

  2. dave Says:

    this would be a great book.

  3. Investigation: Initial summary findings « Lockeblog Says:

    […] 5. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada notes that 427 persons have been struck and killed by trains in the past five years. The calling of these people ¨trespassers” is inaccurate and is a matter that needs to be addressed by the TSB. They have investigated none of these deaths; […]

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