Elevated Confederation Line safety

The elevated portions of the Confederation LRT Line west of Bayview Station are on a high viaduct. Throughout its life as a transitway there were concrete side walls along the road.

These may have been to stop debris from blowing off the road, or for noise abatement; and for safety, to prevent bus plunges off cliff -type stories that the main stream media so loves to characterize other third world countries with.

The LRT is modern, first world engineering, of course. On steel tracks. The safety record is impressive. But rare accident stories remain lodged in the brain. European rail systems do have occasional accidents with nasty consequences. **

So what stops a LRT vehicle from tumbling off elevated trackage?

Well, first of all there is the chain link fence. Here is the LRT protective fence on a curve on a steep embankment at Hurdman:


Less visible is the third rail. Here is one on a section of track near St Laurent Station:

The addition of an additional rail parallel to the running rail is a time-old method to help prevent trains from getting too far off track. The idea is that if a set of wheels starts to move sideways it is likely because one side of the ‘truck’ (set of wheels) has raised up, allowing the inner wheel flange on that side to get over the rail. Let’s say that the right side wheel bounces up and its flange gets over the right track. Without the opposing flange to prevent right-ward movement, the left wheel, and its associated section of train, will begin moving right. If there is a parallel rail, then the flange of the left wheel will be prevented from moving so far right that it can pull the entire train off the rails. Hopefully, the Engineer (or remote computer operator once the trains become driverless)  should be able to stop the train with some control.

This method of reducing the risk of trains going sideways has been around for a long time. It has been a common technique used to increase safety on bridges, for example. Here it is on the Prince of Wales bridge.

(above: Ottawa Citizen photo)

In some instances the safety rail is turned at an angle or shaved down at its end point to prevent approaching trains from “snagging” something on it, ironically causing an accident rather than ameliorating one. Since the Confed Line is still under construction, this cut-off safety-rail end may not be the final product.

I have no real idea if the safety and noise abatement measures for our Confederation Line are minimal, standard or excellent.  I see on some plans that we have crash barriers where the tracks pass some bridge pillars, which is comforting.

I do know I would prefer to have kept the side walls along the track. But that won’t stop me from using the system when it opens.


** I don’t want to post a bunch of alarmist pic of LRT derailments or accidents. You can find plenty on Google. But they can happen here. Here is a globe and mail story from Calgary last September:    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/alberta/light-rail-train-derails-during-morning-rush-in-north