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New Brunswick not on list to receive federal rail safety funding despite fatal collision

Unclear if federal funding for rail safety is headed to New Brunswick
Thu, Aug 2: Two years after a man was killed by a train in Moncton when his wheelchair got stuck at a railroad crossing. The federal government is pouring millions into improving rail safety. But it's not clear if any of that money is headed to New Brunswick. Callum Smith has more.

Transport Canada announced on Wednesday that it will channel $20.7 million in federal funding toward rail safety projects, however New Brunswick is not on the list of funding recipients, despite a fatal collision at a rail crossing in Moncton, N.B. two years ago.

Steven Harel was killed in July 2016 after his wheelchair became stuck in the tracks at the Robinson Street crossing.

READ MORE: Residents worry about safety at Montreal West train crossing after teen hit in Pierrefonds

He was stranded for up to 40 minutes, according to his family’s lawyer.

The family has filed a lawsuit against CN Rail and the City of Moncton, as well as the wheelchair manufacturer, in the death of their son.

Harel’s family lawyer, Brian Murphy, says the man’s parents hope the lawsuit will help to promote better rail safety in the province and prevent collisions like the one that killed their son.

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Transport Canada’s newly announced rail safety funding will be used in part to improve lighting and upgrade rail crossing signals and pedestrian overpasses.

“Bravo to the federal government for recognizing that there is a danger,” says Murphy.

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But New Brunswick isn’t on the list of provinces included in the funding.

Still, rail safety issues persist in the province. Moncton resident Christel Robichaud, who uses a wheelchair, says she was lucky when she got stuck in a rail crossing and was only able to get herself out of potential danger because she was able to use her upper body strength.

“There wasn’t any traffic so I wasn’t very scared of that, but it made me think if it ever happens, what would happen to me?” said Robichaud.

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A Transportation Safety Board ruling released in February 2018 called on Transport Canada, rail companies and road authorities to improve the safety of designated crossings for people with accessibility issues.

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CN Rail upgraded the crossing at Robinson Street following Harel’s death, but Robichaud says she still struggles when crossing some tracks in the city.

“It kind of sucks whenever you have to go through it, and some people have to go backwards and sideways,” said Robichaud.

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In an email statement, Transport Canada told Global News: “The owner of the infrastructure is ultimately responsible for applying for federal funding.”

Transport Canada added that CN Rail and the City of Moncton didn’t apply for funding this year but says $81,000 was handed out to the city last year.