The Transportation Safety Board has issued a strongly worded annual report that says Transport Canada can do much more to prevent accidents and save lives.
The report shows a decline in accident rates and safety improvements, but the TSB’s chair Wendy Tadros said that is not good enough.
“For families that have lost a loved one at a rail crossing or in a plane crash, the fact that the overall numbers are going down isn’t going to matter,” she said in a written statement. “They want answers and, more importantly, to know that Transport Canada and industry will step up to fix the problem.”
The board is especially concerned about aviation safety, calling the slow pace to reduce risks troubling, and saying there has been little to no improvement on things such as collision warning systems, landing accidents and runway overruns.
The annual report said even though cutting back on the risk of collisions on runways has been a priority, the number of incidents has not come down. There were 351 in 2010, 446 in 2011, and 433 incidents in 2012.
“Despite the board’s heightened concern, Transport Canada 3 has done little to encourage airports to improve procedures and adopt enhanced collision warning systems, which would considerably reduce the risk of collisions,” the report said.
The report also said misinterpretation of railway signals, and the lack of voice and video recorders on trains have been identified as two major issues that need to be addressed.
It pointed to the derailing of a VIA Rail train outside Burlington, Ont., in 2012, which killed three crew members and injured dozens. Since trains aren’t required to have voice or video recordings of crew communications, investigators weren’t able to fully piece together the sequence of events that lead to the accident.
The report also said incidents of not recognizing or following railway signals happens about 11 times a year, and can lead to crashes or derailments.
Even though Transport Canada and the railways are looking into including signal recognition in the trains’ computer systems, the TSB said there has been no formal strategy established.
However, the TSB said good progress has been made in the marine sector, and all of its pipeline recommendations have received what it calls “fully satisfactory” status.
The report said there were seven pipeline accidents in 2012, up two from 2011.
The report concluded the percentage of marine, rail, air and pipeline accidents in 2012 decreased by one per cent from the year before, but the number of fatalities went up by three people.
As of March, 74 per cent of the board’s recommendations released since 1990 have reached “fully satisfactory” status, but three per cent of cases remain “unsatisfactory.”
Transport Canada was not available for comment.