Second Canadian National Railway Derailment in One Day in Alberta

•September 26, 2014 • Comments Off

It’s almost impossible to keep up with the number of reported Canadian National Railway derailments in Alberta. The latest occurred this afternoon near Wildwood west of Edmonton, when 15 cars loaded with coal derailed and spilled coal all over the tracks (Global Edmonton). The extent of environmental damage was not disclosed.

Railroaded reported earlier today about another CN derailment near Vermilion that occurred last night, less than 24 hours before the one near Wildwood. That derailment involved 17 to 20 CN cars loaded with peas.

These are the 20th and 21st reported CN derailments in Alberta in less than a year. It is well known that CN intentionally does not report many of its derailments, so there are undoubtedly many more that have occurred in Alberta during the past year. See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for details.

Burlington Neighbourhood Frustrated with CN Rail Yard Activities

•September 26, 2014 • Comments Off

Some residents in the Aldershot community of Burlington, Ontario have been fighting Canadian National Railway for 15 years, without success. Residents can’t sleep at night, their houses shake and rattle, and their property values have dropped with the increasing rail yard activity in their community.

The sometimes deafening noise at the CN Aldershot Rail Yard comes from shunting and coupling of rail cars, idling and slow-moving locomotives, load cell testing of locomotives, wheel and brake retarder squeal, compressed air releases, and many other disturbing noises associated with rail yard activities. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Railway Association of Canada list noises at rail yards as one of the top five railway proximity issues of concern to nearby residents. Noise in rail yards is far more frequent and of much longer duration than normal railway noise.

Residents are also concerned about their health, considering the well-documented carcinogenic effects of diesel exhaust from idling and slow-moving locomotives.

In 2006, the Aldershot community presented a petition to Canadian National Railway, their Mayor and Councillors, and their Member of Parliament, pleading for resolution to their nightmare. Petitioners suggested building a sound barrier and restricting noisy rail yard activities at night and during early mornings. CN essentially ignored the petition. Unfortunately, and as is the case across the country, local governments have no jurisdictional authority when it comes to railway activity including noise and vibration, so the local Mayor and Council have not been able to help. The federal government has the sole legislative responsibility for railway operations, safety and railway impacts on neighbouring communities.

Aldershot residents have seen their property values decrease as the rail yard activities have increased. Some residents near the rail yard have estimated their homes are worth about $200,000 less than comparable homes less than a 5-minute walk further away from the rail yard.

Recent derailments reported in the Aldershot community have also increased the stress of residents. Three CN cars loaded with ballast rock derailed in the Aldershot Rail Yard on April 22, 2014, when a train passed over a “frog”, a railway term that refers to the crossing point of two rails (Toronto Star). On February 26, 2012, three Via Rail engineers were killed and 46 other people were injured when a Via locomotive and five cars derailed near the Aldershot Station on track owned, operated and maintained by CN. The train was switching from one track to another when it flew off the tracks and collided with a building, destroying the locomotive that the three deceased crew members were in. A former CN project engineer said the deadly derailment might have been prevented if CN had heeded warnings and removed or upgraded an obsolete crossover between tracks designed mainly for freight trains travelling at a maximum speed of 24km/h (CBC News).

Aldershot community members are at their wit’s end. The unreasonable rail yard noise, health effects, property devaluation and derailments have placed tremendous stress on families and their overall quality of life. If there ever was a case where the federal government should exercise its legal responsibilities for appropriate railway operations, it is in the Aldershot community. Railroaded sincerely hopes the local Member of Parliament and the federal Transport Minister will help this community. We also encourage the Aldershot community to make a strong submission to the recently-created Canada Transportation Act Review Secretariat by December 30, 2014. For details on the review of this federal legislation, see Rail and Reason’s recent article.

Canadian National Railway Train Derails Near Vermilion, Alberta

•September 26, 2014 • Comments Off

Seventeen Canadian National Railway freight cars loaded with peas derailed east of Vermilion, Alberta on September 25 (CTV News). The derailment forced the closure of the rail line for at least 24 hours while the cars and peas were cleared off the tracks.

This is the 20th reported CN derailment in Alberta in less than a year. See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for many more examples of CN accidents in Canada and the U.S.

Canadian National Railway Grain Hauling Fine a Joke

•September 25, 2014 • Comments Off

The federal government announced last week that Canadian National Railway would be fined under the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act for failing to move a minimum amount of grain each week.

Under the legislation which came into effect on April 1, railways would face maximum penalties of $100,000 a day for failing to handle 500,000 tonnes of grain each week for the next 90 days (Globe and Mail). But when the legislation was extended in August, the fine was reduced to up to $100,000 per violation which Transport Canada says means per week. The significant change was buried in a lengthy government backgrounder and went unnoticed by the grain industry, media and Official Opposition.

Wade Sobkowich, Executive Director of the Western Grain Elevator Association said, “Lovely. The old switcheroo.” He described the change as “disingenuous” and a “very small amount” for railways like CN that generate billions of dollars in revenue a year. “We did not receive notice of the change, and if true, we are surprised and question the reason for the reduction”.

Opposition Agriculture Critic Malcolm Allen said the federal government softened the law under fierce pressure from railway executives, who “screamed almighty murder” over a per-day fine. “Every time push comes to shove, it’s the railroaders that win with the Department of Transport”, he said.

Railroaded toothless tiger imageThis is just one of many, many examples of the sad state of railway legislation and enforcement in Canada. Federal legislation, even that passed very recently, consistently favours the railroad industry, and then to add insult to injury, enforcement of the weak legislation is either limited or non-existent. Transport Canada has often been referred to as a “toothless tiger” when it comes to regulating the rail industry in Canada, dominated by the two rail giants, Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway – it is a term that has been well earned.

The federal government refuses to bring the rail industry into the 21st century when it comes to fairness to shippers, rail safety, railway noise and vibration impacts, or environmental impacts of the rail industry. Canadians, including farmers, other shippers, municipalities, rail safety advocates, environmental organizations and individual Canadians have an opportunity to make their concerns known about these and other rail matters, by contacting the Canada Transportation Act Review Secretariat by December 30, 2014. See this Rail and Reason article for details on how to make a submission to the Secretariat.


Opportunity to Address Railway Noise and Vibration in Canada

•September 24, 2014 • Comments Off

Railroaded noise imageRail and Reason has just posted an excellent article on the federal government’s recent launch of a review of the Canada Transportation Act. The last time the Act was reviewed and new regulations proposed, particularly with respect to railway noise and vibration, the railway industry managed to do an end-run and convinced the Senate that the potential impact of railway noise and vibration on people living next to railroads did not need to be considered when Canadian rail companies build and operate railways.

According to Rail and Reason, the current legislative review, which focuses on the growing number of catastrophic derailments and the unprecedented backlog of grain shipments in Canada, provides an opportunity for another very contentious part of rail transport to be reviewed…namely, railway noise and vibration.

Rail and Reason provides information on how Canadians can submit comments on existing provisions in the Act for railway noise and vibration. Interested parties may send submissions to a recently-appointed Secretariat by December 30, 2014.

Considering the growing number of media articles on citizens’ complaints about unreasonable railway noise and vibration in Canada, we strongly encourage individual Canadians, municipalities, communities and organizations to send their concerns to the Canada Transportation Act Review Secretariat by the end of December. In particular, we encourage the hundreds of individuals who have contacted Railroaded over the past 4 years, expressing concerns about unreasonable railway noise and vibration, to send a submission to the Secretariat. We also strongly encourage our readers to read the entire Rail and Reason article on this subject.

People from across Canada have contacted us with their concerns about the negative impacts of unreasonable railway noise and vibration on their sleep, health, property values and overall quality of life.

Now it’s up to all of us who are concerned about these negative impacts to make the Canada Transportation Act Review Secretariat aware of our concerns.

Canadian National Railway Derailment Near Central City, Iowa

•September 19, 2014 • Comments Off

Railroaded CN logo oldNine Canadian National Railway cars, including box cars and hopper cars, derailed  September 18 near Ford Road in Central City, Iowa (KWWL). The cars were carrying agricultural and forest products, and were on their way from Cedar Rapids to Manchester.

For more information on CN derailments in the U.S. and Canada, see CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents.

Canadian National Railway Gets First Fine for Not Moving Enough Grain

•September 18, 2014 • Comments Off

Railroaded gavel and fine imageCanadian National Railway is being fined by the federal government under the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act for failing to move a minimum amount of grain each week (Globe and Mail). The monetary penalty, which has yet to be determined but can be up to $100,000 a week, is the first to be charged under the federal legislation which was passed in the spring to address grain farmers’ complaints that Canada’s two major railways were providing poor service, resulting in significant financial losses to farmers. Grain farmers were also claiming, at the same time, that CN and CP were dedicating too much of their efforts to hauling crude oil and other petroleum products, at the expense of the grain industry.

Canada’s Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said he was “concerned” CN was not meeting the minimum volume requirements. He said, “Using all means available, our government will continue to defend farmers and all shippers to ensure that our economy is well served by Canada’s rail logistics system.” A Ministry of Transport spokesperson said, “As CN was not able to meet the minimum volume requirements, the Minister has decided to issue administrative monetary penalties to the company.”

In addition to the grain-specific legislation passed this spring, the federal government passed the Fair Rail Freight Service Act last year to help level the playing field for shippers who had been complaining for years that they were more-or-less at the mercy of CN and CP when it came to shipping prices and quality of shipping service. Shippers were concerned, among other issues, about delivery times, standard of freight cars, and recourse when the two rail giants did not live up to their end of service arrangements.

Some shippers and rail analysts have suggested that the quality of service provided by CN has been decreasing since it was privatized in 1995, as the company has been focusing too much on the bottom line and its stock ratings.


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