Ottawa Ontario - Some passengers on an OC Transpo bus in Barrhaven got a jolt this morning when the driver had to slam on the brakes before a train passed by at the same rail crossing where six people lost their lives in a collision in 2013.
Peter Ferguson, a regular OC Transpo passenger, said the No. 277 bus had just left Fallowfield station around 07:30 when "all of a sudden, the bus driver slammed on the brakes."
The double-decker bus was full, Ferguson said, forcing him and several other passengers on the lower level to stand near the front.
"It was a bit chaotic, you know, people were flying around," Ferguson said.
"I fell into the woman in front of me, who hurt her wrist. Other people were sort of falling down towards the ground."
Ferguson said he was looking at his phone before the sudden stop.
When he regained his bearings, he realized just how close the bus had come to the tracks.
"I looked out the front window and there was the bar barrier coming down. The lights flashing for the train and then, almost immediately it seemed, the train coming through at the crossing. And the front of the bus was right there."
Another passenger, Alexandra Batchelor, said that while the bus stopped abruptly, the train was farther away than Ferguson suggested, taking as long as a minute to pass in front of the bus.
OC Transpo Investigating Hard Brake
Ferguson reported the incident to OC Transpo, launching an investigation.
"There was an abrupt stop, or a hard brake application of one of our buses," said Troy Charter, the company's director of transit operations.
After interviewing the driver and reviewing GPS data and video footage from the bus, Charter said OC Transpo is satisfied the driver never put passengers at risk.
"The bus was able to stop well in advance of the rail control arms," said Charter, who also confirmed the driver was not speeding at the time of the incident.
"She knows the area. She saw the train. She just broke a little too quickly," said Charter, who said OC Transpo doesn't plan to investigate the incident further.
Asked why the driver would have needed to apply the brakes so abruptly if she saw the train coming, Charter replied, "I don't know."
Batchelor believes the driver saw the train approaching.
"I think what happened is the lights at the crossing hadn't actually started flashing yet," she said.
Once the bus stopped, Batchelor said its passengers could see the train was still "fairly far away."
Memories of Fatal Crash
Ferguson, who takes this bus to and from his downtown office every day, said the ride is usually loud, with passengers talking on their phones and chatting with one another.
This morning's ride was different, he said.
"Immediately, it went dead quiet," he said.
"Many of us were on the bus a couple of years ago when the accident happened, so I think everyone in that bus had the same expression, that it was just reliving that."
Ferguson wasn't among the 83 people on the bus that crashed into a VIA passenger train on 18 Sep 2013 killing six people and injuring dozens more.
In a 2015 review of that incident, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) made four recommendations to the federal Department of Transportation and one to the city of Ottawa.
Months later, the TSB said the federal response to that review hadn't been good enough.
Both Ferguson and Charter said the bus driver immediately apologized to passengers following the sudden stop.
But Ferguson would like to see a permanent solution at the crossing.
"It's a bad crossing there, and to me something needs to be done about it," he said.
"We can't be getting on the bus every morning thinking this may happen again."
OC Transpo has provided information on the incident to VIA Rail.
"To the bus driver's credit, she slammed on the brakes," said Ferguson.
"Or else, we were right on the tracks."