Many Western students have been relying on Canadian passenger trains as a means of safe transportation for years—taking them back and forth between their hometown and London throughout the school year. But when students are traveling by foot or bike within certain areas of the city, these same railways can become extremely dangerous.
In May alone, two pedestrians were involved in fatal train-pedestrian collisions in London—one of them involving a Via Rail passenger train in the east end near Third Street and Culver Drive, the other, involving 20-year-old London native and baseball player Trevor Barton at the railway crossing near Richmond and Mill streets.
London Police reported the eastbound train struck Barton on Saturday, May 12 around 2:30 a.m.—a common time for students from the university to be leaving one of the several bars around the area.
Dennis Rivest, media relations officer for the London Police Service, explained several of these fatal incidents take place early in the morning because the pedestrians aren’t paying enough attention while trying to cross.
“When you are walking in any area where there are train tracks around, you should first and foremost have your ears alert,” Rivest explained. “Students shouldn’t be listening to an iPod or using some form of headphones which block their ears—they need to be able to listen and hear the train coming.”
“Students also need to be in a position to look around them,” he continued. “If they are walking and texting, they are not paying full attention to the railroad tracks, which could inadvertently put them in a position that could prove quite fatal to them.”
Katelyn Amos, a close friend and past girlfriend of Barton, couldn’t believe what happened involving the train tracks downtown.
“Trevor really meant a lot to me, and still does to so many others,” Amos said. “[He] was such an outstanding human being—I’ve never met anyone with as many best friends as him. He would always work so hard towards everything—school, sports, his family. There was nothing better than watching him smile and laugh.”
According to VIA Rail, they have invested close to $500 million in improvements since 2007—most of which involve safety matters such as signaling systems, which will hopefully help prevent these fatal incidents.
Although it may seem necessary to have someone monitoring the area surrounding the crossing areas downtown, Rivest said he thinks there are currently enough safety procedures in place.
“I think there is a tremendous onus on pedestrians, cyclists and motorists to be paying attention when they are approaching these areas,” he said. “Trains cannot stop on a dime—we put rails up, we have lights that are going and bells that are ringing to alert people. It is much easier for people, drivers and cyclists to stop and wait for the train to pass.”
Rivest noted that London does have a unique set-up, with a railway crossing located over one of the city’s arterial roads, but pointed out there were safety precautions in place to allow pedestrians to be safer and avoid these types of incidents.
Although Amos, among many others, has lost someone important in her life, she is trying to stay positive about the situation.
“I really hope this brings awareness to how dangerous the tracks really are,” she said. “Trevor will never be forgotten—he’s the only guardian angel fast enough to watch over all the people who loved him.”