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MTO won't change rules for level rail crossings

Despite questions about the safety of level rail crossings across Ontario the Ministry of Transportation says it isn't looking into changing existing rules for public transit buses owned and operated by municipalities.

The questions have been raised since the Sept. 18 crash in Barrhaven between an OC Transpo bus and a VIA Rail train that left six people, including the bus driver, dead.

The City of Ottawa has repeatedly said it won't make any changes to the rules governing level rail crossings unless the direction comes from the Transportation Safety Board, the group investigating the crash.

But the City of Cornwall introduced a by-law requiring all of its city buses to treat level rail crossings like a stop sign.

Ontario's rules don't require the same thing province-wide. School buses and inter-city buses, like Greyhounds, do have to stop at all level crossings but not municipal public transit buses.

"We believe fair and sufficient rules are in place and that municipal transit providers are responsible and capable of managing their own operations in a manner that is both safe, and consistent with the Highway Traffic Act, PVA, and any other relevant legislation," said MTO spokesperson Bob Nichols in an email.

The MTO said it is constantly evaluating the latest safety information and will make changes if it's deemed necessary.

For now, they'll count on cities to make their own decisions.

Meanwhile City of Ottawa staff are acting on a Jan. 9 directive from a federal workplace safety department within Employment and Social Development Canada.

They're looking at all the level crossings within city boundaries to see if there are any changes that need to be made.

That includes clearing anything blocking the sight lines to approaching trains.

City staff have already started this work. They evaluated the crossing at Fallowfield immediately but they're not providing updates on how many of the crossings they've done their work at.

The department also asked the City to report back with any other safety recommendations it finds while looking at each level crossing.

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