Two tragic deaths just hours apart were recorded on the CTrain system, the light rail transit network in Calgary, on Monday.
A six-year-old girl succumbed to her injuries after being hit by a train at an intersection, and shortly after a man was killed at a level crossing at a station.
The back-to-back deaths are unusual for even the CTrain, which has a long history of being disrupted by collision incidents with pedestrians and vehicles.
Yesterday’s incidents set a new precedent to the extent an editorial in the Calgary Herald has described it as “the darkest day in the history of Calgary’s LRT system.”
“Every time these accidents happen, the focus should fall on politicians and experts who built the LRT, and to this day keep adding these often confusing and dangerous level crossings,” wrote Don Braid with the publication.
Much of the CTrain has little grade separation and runs through roads and intersections, and in recent years pedestrian and vehicle traffic has only grown from the city’s rising population, creating more conflicts that lead to incidents.
The Surrey grassroots advocacy group that has been fighting LRT plans in their city says there are hard lessons to be gained from the CTrain, given that the design of the planned Surrey Newton-Guildford LRT also has little grade separation to minimize the project’s construction costs.
“Our hearts are heavy after learning the deaths of a six-year-old girl and another man in separate incidents involving light rail trains,” Daryl Dela Cruz with SkyTrain for Surrey told Daily Hive.
“What incidents like this show is that there will be implications in both safety and reliability if we continue and build a ground-running system.”
He says his group’s advocacy motives in support of SkyTrain have always centred around public safety and reliability concerns relating to street-level LRT designs.
“In both of the incidents, C-Train service had to be shut down in both directions for several hours while police investigated. Commuters were left scrambled, confused, and frustrated as they faced delays and had to find shuttle buses,” he continued.
“Collisions and incidents could seriously affect reliability perceptions and ridership on a Surrey LRT system; light rail vehicles cannot maneuver around a stopped train or vehicle when there is an accident. Buses can often get around incidents, and SkyTrain avoids this issue altogether as there is no chance of collisions.”
According to Dela Cruz, his group has received comments from many Calgarians who feel their hometown’s CTrain was “cheaped out in the 80s” by building very few grade-separations.
One former resident also told him the frequency of LRT accidents have caused Calgarians to become “desensitized” to such incidents.
“We see this as a serious wake-up call for Surrey residents as this election campaign comes to a close,” added Dela Cruz.
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