Via Rail has a target on its back in Barrhaven these days, and many in the city would say rightly so. The railway's ongoing issues with its level crossings in the suburb continue to tarnish the company's image in Ottawa's southwest neighbourhood. On May 29th, a local resident reported that the signals and crossing gates at the Fallowfield Road level crossing failed to activate when a Via train approached. The resident alerted media, explaining that Via crews were flagging down traffic as the train passed through.
The report of this latest malfunction comes at a time when the railway is working hard to get out from underneath this problem. Despite a number of corrective measures taken, some of its problems seem to persist. You will recall from an earlier post, Via's Barrhaven Problem, that the railway's problems started with last fall's tragic train-bus collision at the Woodroffe Avenue crossing near Fallowfield Station.
Since that time, the company has taken a number of steps as it attempts to fix its list of problems, which have been blamed on road salt and electrical interference from nearby wires among a list of other factors. The railway recently appointed its former COO, John Marginson, to lead local efforts to fix these problems.
Since the report of the latest malfunction, all has been relatively quiet through Barrhaven, although the animosity lingers and likely will for some time.
Via Train 643 gears up as it crosses McKenna Casey Drive on June 1st.
Since Via's leadership change and the appointment of John Marginson, the situation has improved, especially with the company's relationship with the city. However, when residents hear that crossing equipment failed because a train was moving too slowly through the crossing, as was the explanation in several media reports this time, the collective patience in Barrhaven seems to be wearing thin.
From the Ottawa Citizen, May 29th:
"Via tweeted saying the mishap occurred because the train was moving too slowly through the automatic warning device zone."
This line hosts both faster passenger trains and the occasional slow-moving freight trains. A train moving too slow through a crossing? That seems like a weak explanation to me. But, as I have mentioned before, I am not a technical expert, so I will reserve further comment.
Most here believe that the time has long since past to straighten out this mess. We have seen significant progress of late, which has raised expectations that these problems will soon be solved. One can only hope.