Accessibility/Mobile Features
Skip Navigation
Editorial News
Classified Sites

Brandon Sun - ONLINE EDITION

Feds quietly OK new rail rules

Paul Chiasson / THE CANADIAN PRESS files
Workers were still clearing debris on the main street of Lac-M��gantic months after a train derailment and explosion rocked the Quebec town.

CP Enlarge Image

Paul Chiasson / THE CANADIAN PRESS files Workers were still clearing debris on the main street of Lac-M��gantic months after a train derailment and explosion rocked the Quebec town.

OTTAWA -- Transport Canada quietly approved new safety rules drafted by the railway industry on Boxing Day just as an emergency directive issued in the wake of last summer's Lac-Mégantic disaster was set to expire.

The federal department also reissued a new emergency directive on Jan. 1, again without public notification, covering those rail companies that are not part of the Railway Association of Canada.

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt issued the emergency directive last July to address some of the most glaring safety deficiencies exposed by the derailment and explosion of an oil-laden train that claimed 47 lives in Lac-Mégantic, Que.

Since then, there have been at least five significant railway accidents in North America involving the spill or combustion of oil, including the derailment this week of a CN train in northwestern New Brunswick.

The emergency measures put in place last summer dictated at least two crew members must work trains that carry dangerous goods.

In addition, the federal directive said no locomotive attached to one or more loaded tank cars transporting dangerous materials could be left unattended on a main track.

Transport Canada declined to comment Thursday on the newly approved rules, endorsed Dec. 26 by Gerard McDonald, the department's assistant deputy minister for safety and security.

However, the Railway Association provided a copy to The Canadian Press.

Like the emergency directive, the new rules continue to require at least two crew work a train transporting dangerous material such as crude oil.

The rules drop the requirement that a train with hazardous cargo be continuously attended, but insist if it is left unattended new instructions be followed to safely apply brakes and secure the cab to prevent unauthorized entry.

Kevin McKinnon, director of regulatory affairs at the Railway Association, said the new rules will prevent freight trains from rolling away or being tampered with.

"The public should be very comfortable with what was put out by us," he said Thursday.

McKinnon, a qualified locomotive engineer, said it's not realistic to have a crew member watch a train loaded with dangerous goods round-the-clock.

"We ship dangerous commodities, yes we do. We ship them throughout the country, and there's times where they are not going to be attended," he said.

"But, I mean, do you not leave your car out in the parking lot? Or do you sleep beside it every night?"

The new rules stipulate that before leaving a train at any location, the employee doing so "must confirm with another employee the manner in which the equipment has been secured."

In a letter to the Railway Association, McDonald said member companies are required to file special instructions with the department governing the testing of handbrakes.

The New Brunswick accident has renewed concerns about the hazards of moving oil by rail.

At a news conference, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said the "enormous" increase in rail transport of crude oil in recent years has not been matched by an increase in rail inspections and safety audits.

"There is such thing as safe transport of petroleum products by pipeline. There is such as safe transport by rail," Mulcair said.

"But you've got to put in the conditions, you've got to supervise on behalf of the public. That's what's missing in Canada now. We let the companies decide for themselves. We let them check themselves, regulate themselves and supervise themselves."

There have been repeated warnings that DOT-111 tank cars routinely used to ship oil can easily rupture in a derailment.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox met Thursday with a congressional delegation from North Dakota, who quoted the transport czar telling them that new regulations for oil transport -- including tank car reforms -- would be announced in "weeks, not months."

Mulcair warned Canada will have to be in lockstep.

"We could wind up with the worst of all situations in Canada if we don't act on this," he said of the aging DOT-111 tank cars.

"If they're still approved up here and the Americans are replacing them, they're all going to buy them on the cheap and we'll have kilometres-long trains of this dangerous stuff moving in those old cars."

-- The Canadian Press

  • Rate this Rate This Star Icon
  • This article has not yet been rated.
  • We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high. If you thought it was well written, do the same. If it doesn’t meet your standards, mark it accordingly.

    You can also register and/or login to the site and join the conversation by leaving a comment.

    Rate it yourself by rolling over the stars and clicking when you reach your desired rating. We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high.

Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 0 Commentscomment icon

You can comment on most stories on brandonsun.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is register and/or login and you can join the conversation and give your feedback.

There are no comments at the moment. Be the first to post a comment below.

Post Your Commentcomment icon

Comment
  • You have characters left

The Brandon Sun does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. Comments are moderated before publication. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Brandon Sun Business Directory
Submit a Random Act of Kindness
Why Not Minot?
Welcome to Winnipeg

Social Media