Information for Ottawa area residents

Beachburg subdivision map

Alexandria subdivision map

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In 2014 VIA Rail Canada implemented a comprehensive action plan to improve the level of safety at the Barrhaven area crossings. All 132 items from the action plan have been completed and have been successful in reducing the likelihood and duration of a fail-safe event as well as technical changes and preventative maintenance which has resulted in improved reporting of fail-safe events should they occur.

The Barrhaven area faces unique challenges: there is a high concentration of crossings within a short distance and the volume of road traffic is also very high. In fact, road traffic at certain Barrhaven intersections has increased by over 40% over the past three years. Since May 2014, the overall performance of the Woodroffe/OC Transitway, Fallowfield, Greenbank, Jockvale and Strandherd crossings has improved. We remain committed to keeping the number of occurrences of fail-safe activations of the Automatic-Warning Device systems to a normal level. Please keep in mind, the AWD system, when working as designed, is triggered into fail-safe mode (gates, lights and bells activated) when a problem is detected, ensuring the safety of both road and train traffic.

VIA Rail Canada and the City of Ottawa continue to work in close collaboration and a communication protocol is in place to report fail-safe occurrences as fast as possible to reduce inconvenience to the public when the crossing is blocked, while at the same time ensuring the safety of the public.

Measures currently in place
The communications protocol established between VIA Rail Canada and the City of Ottawa continues to be in place. VIA Rail has extra staff available in the Barrhaven area to allow additional coverage during peak traffic times to ensure quick response to any issue that may arise in the future. Trains in the Barrhaven area are running at the posted speeds for the area and the AWDs in the area will continue to behave according to the crossing regulations.

At all times, the safety of the public and our passengers is our top priority at VIA Rail. Train whistling upon approach of a grade crossing is an important way to keep drivers, cyclists and pedestrians safe. At any time, our locomotive engineers can apply the train whistle if there is an emergency or situation which they believe warrants an alert of the approaching train. Although whistling cessation is in place at several of the crossings in the Barrhaven area, train crews are required to use the whistle at the Woodroffe Ave / OC Transpo Transitway crossing between 12pm and 8pm.

The City of Ottawa completed construction of grade separation at Greenbank Road in spring 2017, eliminating a public grade crossing in the community. A grade separation feasibility study was also completed by the City of Ottawa in partnership with VIA Rail Canada which identified the need for additional grade separations in the Barrhaven community. The City of Ottawa’s is now undertaking environmental assessments as the next step in the process.


Railway Construction and Maintenance Notices



NOTICE TO RESIDENT - Infrastructure Upgrades Logo Adobe Acrobat Reader (PDF)


NOTICE TO RESIDENT - Upcoming Track Maintenance Logo Adobe Acrobat Reader (PDF)



Notice of Closure: Cartier Road Railway Crossing
In conjunction with the Village of Casselman initiative outlined at the public meeting held by the municipal council on June 28th, 2016, the Cartier Road Railway Crossing will be closed effective September 12th, 2016.


PUBLIC NOTICE June 8, 2016 - Railway Maintenance – Vegetation Control Logo Adobe Acrobat Reader (PDF)


Bridge Repair Work - Notice to Residents Logo Adobe Acrobat Reader (PDF)


Continuous Welded Rail (CWR) to be installed - Notice to Residents Logo Adobe Acrobat Reader (PDF)

Rail Tie Replacement Program - Notice to Residents Logo Adobe Acrobat Reader (PDF)

2016 Construction and Maintenance Works – City of Ottawa Logo Adobe Acrobat Reader (PDF)



Railway Maintenance – Vegetation Control Logo Adobe Acrobat Reader (PDF)

Wass Siding Night Construction Schedule Logo Adobe Acrobat Reader (PDF)

WASS Siding - Construction – Questions & Answers Logo Adobe Acrobat Reader (PDF)


Replacement of railway ties being planned in the City of Ottawa to improve safety of train operations in the region Logo Adobe Acrobat Reader (PDF)

Removal of hazardous vegetation is being planned in the City of Ottawa to improve safety of train operations in the region Logo Adobe Acrobat Reader (PDF)


What to know about Railway Crossing Signals

There are three type of warning devices employed at roadway/railway grade crossings. All VIA Rail roadway/ railway grade crossings on the Alexandria, Beachburg, Smiths Falls and Chatham subdivisions are equipped with lights, gates, bells and railway crossing signs.

Crossing sign graphic explanation


An Automatic Warning Device System (AWD) is an electro-mechanical system intended to detect trains, activate the warning devices upon detection of the train, and do so within a pre-determined time frame.

By Regulation, an AWD must be activated for a minimum of 20 seconds before a train crosses a section of roadway (otherwise known as a crossing). This includes a minimum 5 second horizontal gate requirement before the train goes through the crossing.

The fail-safe mode

As per Regulations and Standards, all components of a Signal or AWD system are based on a fail-safe principle. Should there be a failure of any portion, component or sub-system, the AWD will go into fail-safe mode, and it will activate; the lights and the bell operate and the gates descend.

AWD activation in the fail-safe mode can occur for various reasons, such as:

•       contaminants in the track including water and salt

•       interference on electrical signals from outside sources such as hydro power

•       circuit board failure

•       controlling device failure

•       track circuit wire or rail bond breakage

•       defective rail

•       loose contact or connection

•       misalignment of gates

•       lightning damage

•       gate motor problem

•       broken or damaged gate

•       failed insulated joint

•       frost in gate contacts

•       etc.


The “Stop and Protect” rule

In the event of an Automatic Warning Devices reported to be defective, VIA Rail’s Traffic Controller instates a “Stop and Protect” rule, known in the railway industry as “Rule 103 (g)”. Here is how this rule works:

Canadian Railway Operating Rules (CROR) | Rule 103 (g)

Canadian Railway Operating Rules apply to all locomotive engineers operating throughout Canada. These rules include Rule 103 (g), which is applied thousands of times a year throughout the Canadian railway network.

(g) When providing manual protection of a crossing, a crew member or other qualified employee must be on the ground ahead of the movement, in a position to stop vehicular and pedestrian traffic before entering the crossing. A hand signal by day and a light or a lighted fusee by night will be used to give a signal to stop vehicular and pedestrian traffic over such crossing. The movement must not enter the crossing until a signal to enter the crossing has been received from the employee providing the manual protection.



When there is an issue related to a public crossing, the Rail Traffic Controller (RTC) must take immediate action to ensure the protection of Railway, Road and Pedestrian traffic. This is done by issuing a restriction to all trains in the vicinity of the affected crossing.

Train crews in possession of the above mentioned restriction must comply with CROR Rule 103(g).  Irrespective of the actual condition of the Automatic Warning Devices, when a train arrives at the public crossing indicated in a restriction, it must:

1.       Stop short of the crossing;

2.       Have a crew member on the ground in position to stop vehicular and pedestrian traffic at the crossing;

3.       Not enter the crossing until the crew member on the ground gives the train the signal to proceed;

4.       Once the train occupies the crossing completely, the crew member on the ground may get back on the train.


Questions & Answers

1.       What was the cause of the incidents that occurred at the crossings located in the Barrhaven area?

The situation was different in each case. Incidents were caused by multiple factors such as salt applied on tracks, frozen switches, road vehicles stuck on the railway, ground faults, etc. All causes have been verified and validated, and appropriate measures were taken.

At no time was public safety compromised. There has never been a case of late or non-activation of AWDs at the Barrhaven area crossings.

VIA Rail reminds everyone that crossing signals must be respected at all times. One should never attempt to cross a railway line when warning devices have been activated regardless of the inconvenience it may cause.


2.       How does VIA Rail know when an Automatic Warning Device (AWD) System is in fail-safe mode?

Railway crossing signals are normally un-activated unless a train is approaching or occupying the crossing, or if there is a component failure.

Currently, when an AWD system is in fail-safe mode, we are advised by one of our train crews or maintenance employees, the Police, an emergency service representative or by someone calling the emergency phone number located behind the warning devices or on the metal cabin located next to each crossing. (See section entitled “How to report a situation”).


3.       How long does it take to resolve a situation?

Personnel are on stand-by in order to rapidly address any occurrences, especially during rush hours.


4.       How many inspections does VIA Rail conduct on its automated warning devices?

There is a scheduled maintenance program for all our crossings. Inspections are conducted periodically.


5.       Does the system work during a power failure?

Yes. AWD systems are designed to operate on stand-by storage battery power should commercial power be terminated for any reason. Storage battery stand-by power is required and designed to provide 24 hours of back-up power supply.


6.       How many crossings are there in the OTTAWA area?



7.       How many trains circulate in the Barrhaven area on a yearly basis?

More than 6,400 trains cross through the Barrhaven area each year.


8.       Have you experienced situations of an AWD system not activating on the crossings located in the Ottawa area?

No. Since VIA Rail has owned the infrastructure of the Smith Falls subdivision, there have not been any confirmed occurrences of late or non-activations of the AWD. All confirmed technical failures resulted in fail-safe mode.



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