Letter Decision No. LET-AT-R-5-2002

January 8, 2002

Application by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities against VIA Rail Canada Inc.

File No.: 

By letter dated November 15, 2001, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) addressed 45 interrogatories to VIA Rail Canada Inc. (VIA), which it copied to the Canadian Transportation Agency (the Agency). By letter dated November 30, 2001, VIA filed its responses including reasons as to why it did not consider it necessary to answer some of the questions posed by CCD. Although VIA filed its response after the prescribed deadline of November 30, 2001, which was set out in Decision No. LET-AT-R-461-2001 dated November 27, 2001, the Agency, pursuant to section 8 of the National Transportation Agency General Rules (General Rules), accepts the submission as being relevant and necessary to its consideration of this matter.

By letter dated December 6, 2001, CCD responded that it accepts VIA's answers to questions 6, 9, 11, 12, 26, 32, 36 and 38 but that it is dissatisfied with VIA's responses to the remaining interrogatories and requests that the Agency issue a decision pursuant to subsection 20(2) of the General Rules.

Subsection 20(2) states:

Where the party who directed interrogatories does not receive a full and adequate response and is dissatisfied with the reasons for there not being a full and adequate response, that party may apply to the Agency for a decision as to whether the reasons are valid.

The Agency has reviewed the submissions from all parties regarding the interrogatories and, based on the information provided by the parties to date on this file, the Agency's findings are set out below.

A. Inadequate/incomplete responses to CCD's interrogatories

The Agency is of the opinion that VIA's responses are inadequate or incomplete with respect to the following interrogatories posed by CCD. In this respect, as set out below, VIA is to answer the question posed by CCD and/or to provide the additional information required by the Agency within seven days from the date of this Decision, along with a copy to CCD.

Question 2: What would the cost of widening the doors to "32" inches in the accessible portions of the trains actually have been?

VIA stated that it can "estimate that the costs would be prohibitive" and "completely unnecessary" and that some of the changes to the door and aisle widths would involve "changes in the crash energy management zone and possibly compromise the entire safety portion of the structure".

VIA is to provide an estimate of this cost and elaborate on these statements by specifically setting out what changes would be involved as well as the safety issues to be considered.

In addition, VIA is to provide the Agency with information as to what extent, and at what cost, it could widen the doors and not affect safety.

Question 10: Provide a complete list of the service standards VIA is committing itself to, to address the lack of accessibility of these trains ?

VIA is to provide a list of the services that it proposes to provide to persons with disabilities on the Renaissance cars and to indicate whether those services listed in CCD's submission of December 6, 2001 will be provided.

Question 13: Does VIA want to attract more passengers with disabilities, and if the answer is yes, why does it saddle itself with unnecessarily high long term staff costs to accommodate passengers with disabilities, and restrict the number of accessible locations on its trains?

VIA has answered the question posed by CCD in that it disagrees with the characterization presented in the question. VIA stated that it has one permanent tie-down and a second passenger space to accommodate increased need if it occurs.

However, VIA is to provide more details with respect to the statement that "VIA has a second passenger space to accommodate increased need if it occurs". VIA is to include in its response an indication of where the space is located in the Renaissance cars.

Question 33: Indicate what information that was presented on September 20th is no longer accurate, update this information and confirm the accuracy of the remainder on the record?

As indicated in Decision No. LET-AT-R-396-2001 dated September 7, 2001, the meeting of September 20, 2001 in Montréal between CCD, VIA and the Agency was off the record. As a result, minutes summarizing what was discussed at that meeting, which would have been placed on the record, were not prepared. However, this information may appear on the record through other means such as answers to interrogatories or as a part of the final submissions made by VIA.

As a result of an Agency staff inspection of the cars, a Report on the Renaissance cars was prepared and placed on the record.

In addition, by letter dated October 18, 2001, VIA provided the overhead transparencies it used during the September 20th meeting. These documents contain "preliminary - drafts" of VIA's Renaissance Fleet Deployment Plan. VIA subsequently indicated that the content of these documents is accurate except for the commencement date of service which is now estimated to be February 15, 2002; this date may be the subject of a further change. The Agency is of the view that these documents contain some information that is relevant to the Agency's investigation under section 172 of the CTA. As such, the Agency expects that they will form part of the record and VIA is asked to confirm this understanding.

The Agency further directs VIA to submit its Fleet Deployment Plans, or any portion thereof, as soon as they are finalized. In addition, VIA is to keep the Agency and CCD updated on the proposed commencement date of service of the Renaissance cars.

Question 34: Confirm that the design of the cars presented on September 20th is the final design, and that VIA is willing to have the Agency approve or reject the trains based upon that design as the final and only possible design for the trains?

VIA has responded that the representations made in writing about the design of the Renaissance cars have not changed from those contained in the written documents, although some design features still need to be finalized and an example is given.

VIA is to provide clarification as to which representations made in writing have not changed. For example, is VIA referring only to the written documents provided following the September 20th meeting or is VIA also referring to all other written representations made by VIA during the course of these proceedings?

Further, does the fact that these written representations have not changed mean that they represent the final design of the cars?

Finally, the Agency directs VIA to indicate which design features have not been finalized and to advise the Agency as soon as these design features are finalized.

Question 35: For comparison purposes, what are the dimensions of the accessible washrooms on each of the various VIA 1 configurations in stainless steel Budd trains, LRC cars and any other type of cars with VIA 1 accommodation?

VIA has provided the square footage of the washroom area for passengers with disabilities. In addition, VIA is to provide the length and width of these washrooms.

Question 37: Mr. LeFrancois defined the Renaissance car's "crumple zone" as having one set of dimensions. Lawyer John Campion has defined it in a different manner. As the crumple zone appears, at a minimum to include more than ½ of the washroom space next to the tie-down location and 90% of the vestibule outside the door to the Wheelchair Accessible Suite, provide copies of all engineering reports, drawings, and test results, produced for Alstom, VIA, or Bombardier, or otherwise in their possession, including the reports by David A. Taylor Eng., the Centre for Surface Transportation Technology of the National Research Council of Canada or any other engineering, research or test organization.

Although the Agency acknowledges that safety on board rail cars is the responsibility of the Transport Canada, CCD has raised the issue as to whether persons with disabilities will be in the area of what CCD considers the "highest risk portions of the trains".

VIA is to provide information regarding the safety of this area for persons travelling within or through the crumple zone.

In addition, the Agency directs that VIA provide a diagram and/or description specifying exactly what part of the Renaissance trains comprise the crumple zone.

Question 40: Is there anywhere on the Renaissance train where a person in a wheelchair would have a space of 1500 mm in diameter within which to turn around?

VIA, in its response, does not directly answer CCD's question. The Agency directs VIA to respond to this question.

Question 41: The Renaissance trains are far narrower than North American trains. Will the lifts currently in operation in train stations across Canada operate safely and effectively in conjunction with these narrower trains? Will the lifts still work once the additional stairs, required due to the difference in North American platform heights, are added to the trains?

VIA has responded that the current lifts will be modified and tested so that they will provide access to both VIA's current cars and the Renaissance cars through the lift systems. VIA adds that the lifts will work once any additional stairs are added to the trains.

VIA is to provide information as to when this modification process will be completed, whether these lifts will be used for both the Renaissance cars and existing cars and how the lifts will be modified to permit access to VIA's rail cars by all persons, including persons with disabilities.

B. Irrelevant interrogatories

The Agency is of the opinion that, based on the information provided by the parties to date, the following interrogatories are not relevant to the Agency's investigation of CCD's application filed pursuant to subsection 172(1) of the CTA. However, depending on the nature of the submissions filed by the parties and particularly by VIA, the Agency may determine that some of these interrogatories have become relevant to its investigation and direct VIA to provide more detailed answers.

Questions 1(1) to (10) 7, 8, 15 to 18, 20 to 25, 27 to 31.

C. Remaining interrogatories

The Agency is of the view that, at this time, with respect to the remaining interrogatories, further information is not required from VIA.

Questions 1(11), 3 , 4, 5, 14, 19 and 39.

Further procedural matters

The Agency will soon issue directions establishing the time frames for the filing of further submissions by both parties as well as whether final oral argument will be heard by the Agency.

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