March 16, 2010 / 7:15 PM / 7 years ago

Canada transport watchdog raises safety concerns

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada needs to do more to resolve safety issues on its airlines, railways and in the marine industry, the country's transportation safety watchdog said on Tuesday.

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) issued a list of nine "critical safety issues" it has observed in investigating accidents over the past 20 years and it feels have not been properly addressed.

The risks are as diverse as insufficient safety areas at the end of airport runways, inadequate passenger lists on ferries, and the use of long freight trains in which empty and loaded freight cars have not been properly placed.

Transport Canada must also require domestic marine operators to adopt safety management systems, and must also better ensure railways and airlines are using the management systems they already have in place, the TSB said.

"The target of this (report) is both the government and the industries," said Wendy Tadros, chairwoman of the TSB, an independent agency that investigates rail, marine and airplane accidents to determine how they could be prevented.

Transport Minister John Baird acknowledged to reporters that Ottawa needs to take more steps to improve safety, and said the government is already looking into ways of lengthening airport runways and providing stronger government regulation of corporate jets, for example.

However, he said the changes would come slowly.

"Some of these changes don't happen overnight," he said.

Tadros said that the TSB's recommendations after accident investigations have usually been followed, but in 33 percent of the cases the advice was either ignored or investigators felt it was not acted on quickly enough.

"Many times we arrive on the scene of an accident and see the same safety issues. Issues we have raised before," Tadros said.

Among the more common reoccurring problems cited:

- Crashes caused by a lack of equipment on smaller aircraft to alert pilots to impending collisions when visibility is bad.

- Crashes between automobiles and trains at busy grade crossings that should have been upgraded or replaced.

- Fatalities on fishing boats because of inadequate safety procedures.

The board said its ability to investigate rail and ferry accidents has also been hampered by a lack of sufficient data-recording equipment like the "black boxes" required on all airliners.

Reporting Allan Dowd; editing by Peter Galloway

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