EDITORIAL: Railway needs safety scrutiny

Tuesday’s collision between locomotives and a compact car once again raises concerns about safety at railway crossings along Terminal Avenue.

Considering Nanaimo’s small amount of railroad traffic there is an unusually high number of train-versus-vehicle incidents.

The crossings are well marked. Some even have automatic crossing gates. Given that there are sufficient safety measures installed, collisions between cars and trains shouldn’t happen if everyone follows the rules.

But people don’t always obey signs – they make mistakes and the possibility for mishaps climbs where cars, pedestrians, cyclists and trains following three separate paths converge in a single intersection.

Nanaimo has several such crossings along Terminal Avenue and the Island Highway at St. George Street, Comox, Townsite, Waddington, Dorman and Bowen roads, Norwell Drive, Mostar Road and so on, each with the potential for serious consequences.

Add rain, darkness, glare from traffic and railway crossing lights, a sharp turn leading to a railroad crossing, cyclists and pedestrians suddenly appearing out of the darkness of the unlighted E&N Trail and you have a visually confusing and dangerous situation for everyone.

The E&N Trail runs between the railway and Nanaimo’s busiest arterial road. As more people use the trail, and rail and vehicle traffic rises, so will the frequency of mishaps. The city is currently working on its Transportation Master Plan and taking public input.

Perhaps this is a good opportunity to take a serious look at ways to make Nanaimo’s railway crossing points safer as transportation becomes more varied and congested.

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