Councillor doubts VIA's insistence number of signal issues normal

Barrhaven Councillor Jan Harder is skeptical of VIA Rail's claim that the number of signal malfunctions at the Fallowfield crossing is nothing out of the ordinary.

"Is this happening everywhere across Canada? If this is about weather and moisture and things like that, it's been a rotten winter everywhere. So how can it be that it's just happening in Ottawa, in Barrhaven?" she told CFRA news on Monday.

There have been several instances where the barrier arms have come down with signals flashing, but no train. Wires have also been crossed too in the communication between the city and VIA Rail officials in at least one incident where the city didn't find out the nature of the work being done on-site until after media reports.

"One of the things the Transportation Safety Board said is we want you to work with VIA and make sure your protocols are good. You know what? I'm not comfortable with that. I am comfortable with what we're doing. We have got an excellent plan, and we work really well with RailTerm (the contractor hired by VIA Rail). Missing link is VIA and I think it's because they're a national company. This is not personal to them. It's very personal to me," Harder argued.

But VIA Rail spokesperson Jacques Gagnon insisted the company does appreciate the sensitivity of that location, and that safety is the top priority.

However, he also said that the number of issues with those signals and required maintenance is run-of-the-mill.

"I can tell you that Fallowfield/Woodroffe/Transitway, it is at minimum at twice a week, if not more," he explained. "Listeners have to understand that our safety system works in such a way that if there's any hint of neglect, the signal lights go on and the barriers come down."

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