Canadian National Railway Train Derails in Manitoba and Spills Cargo – Update

•March 12, 2015 • Comments Off on Canadian National Railway Train Derails in Manitoba and Spills Cargo – Update

Railroaded CN derailment NE of Brandon image 2015A Canadian National Railway train derailed on CN’s mainline March 11 near Gregg, about 50 km east of Brandon, Manitoba. 13 cars carrying refinery cracking stock, a type of bitumen, fell off the tracks and one of the tank cars spilled about 30,000 litres. An emergency plan was activated, and crews are working with Manitoba environment officials to clean up the spilled product (CBC News). An emergency action notice has been issued to CN to ensure the material is disposed of appropriately (Winnipeg Free Press).

This derailment follows several other major derailments of CN oil trains in northern Ontario that involved crude oil spills, fires and damages to the environment.

Read CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for more information on many other CN derailments in Canada and the United States.

Update on Canadian National Railway Oil Train Disaster Near Gogama, Ontario

•March 10, 2015 • Comments Off on Update on Canadian National Railway Oil Train Disaster Near Gogama, Ontario

As more information becomes available on the March 7 derailment of a Canadian National Railway oil train near Gogama, north of Sudbury, Ontario, it appears it is among CN’s worst oil train derailments (Sudbury Northern LifeCBC News 1CBC News 2Investor CentralToronto Star).

Railroaded CN derailment gogama image 3The number of tank cars loaded with crude oil that derailed about 3 km from Gogama has now risen to 38. A total of 94 tank cars was loaded with synthetic crude oil from Alberta’s tar sands region. At least 5 tank cars full of oil plunged into the Makami River which is part of the Mattagami River system. Investigators were unable to get close to the accident site due to the intensity of the massive fires that burned furiously, but it appears that firefighters have just put out the last of the fires which were essentially left to burn out. It is not clear whether air quality and drinking water advisories announced shortly following the derailment are still in effect.

Track damage is so severe that a 460-metre temporary bypass around the wreckage site is under construction. The bridge across the river is seriously damaged, perhaps beyond repair. The derailment has cut off all rail traffic between Winnipeg and Toronto; CN’s mainline tracks remain closed for an undetermined period of time.

Although it is too early to determine how much crude oil spilled, the environmental damage is bound to be significant. Oil has spilled into the Mattagami River system, including Minisinakwa Lake. Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada said, “Long after this initial spotlight fades away, we’ll still see impacts in the local ecosystems.” Some crude will end up in the soil, some in the water, and the crude that burned “will deposit toxins in the area which will eventually get into the ecosystem”, Stewart said. Particularly concerning is the fact that much of the spilled oil has made its way into the Mattagami River water system. 3 sets of booms have been placed in the river in an attempt to contain some of the spilled oil, but very little oil is ever recovered from spills, said Environmental Defence spokesperson Adam Scott. “Companies will talk about cleanups but, in reality, the cleanup is only of a small percentage of the oil spilled. In a case like this, it could be crude oil submerged into the river, into the soil. There is a good chance that there will be crude permanently in the environment in the region in some way”. There is no restoring the ecosystems to their original health he said. “So until something dramatic is done, we’re going to see this continuing over and over again”, Scott continued. Companies assure people that they have spill response plans in place, “but when your spill response plan is to let it burn for days, that’s kind of scary”, said Stewart.

Railroaded CN derailment Gogama image 4Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Harvey Yesno has publicly called for a coordinated response from Canadian National Railway, the federal government and the Ontario government, following the second major CN train derailment, oil spill and fires near the Mattagami First Nation in 3 weeks that has threatened the community’s air and water quality. On February 14, another CN train loaded with crude oil from Alberta’s tar sands derailed in the Mattagami First Nation’s traditional territory, only about 37 km from the March 7 derailment site. That accident saw 29 of 100 tank cars loaded with crude oil fall off the tracks and 7 cars burned for almost a week. Over 1 million litres of crude oil was spilled, but the extent of environmental damage from that derailment has not yet been disclosed. The Mattagami First Nation is concerned about the impacts of the 2 spills and fires on the animals they hunt, fish and trap.

Chief Walter Naveau of the Mattagami First Nation said his community no longer feels safe. “People in the community were feeling the effects of the toxins in the air – respiratory problems, they could feel it in their chests and their breathing.” He said he could not trust the public statements being made by CN which attempted to allay the concerns local residents had about air quality. He added his community is also concerned that the river flows into the community’s main spawning grounds for fish, in addition to habitat for other wildlife.

Local Gogama residents are also concerned about the impacts of these latest CN derailments in their community. Dawn Simoneau, a life-long resident of Gogama, said her 2 daughters have been asking questions about the derailment, “Like ‘Are the fish going to be okay?’ and they are concerned as well”. Gerry Talbot, Secretary of the Local Services Board, said there is some question whether new federal rail safety regulations go far enough. He said Gogama community members want answers from CN and the federal government as to why the derailments are happening. He is also concerned about not being informed by CN what’s in the rail cars passing through his community. “Hey guys, we’ve got to do something about this. You know, these people don’t need to go through this amount of stress. I can handle other kinds of stress, but this is getting a little too close to home…Well it certainly brings it home because of the Lac-Megantic tragedy. You got one that’s two kilometres away and you see the flames, you see the smoke, yeah, holy mackeral, is the next one right in Gogama?”, said Talbot.

The March 7 derailment is the fifth reported CN derailment in Ontario so far in 2015. The Ontario provincial government is concerned about the number of CN derailments. Glenn Thibeault, Liberal MPP for Sudbury and parliamentary assistant to Ontario’s environment minister, said, “The federal government, responsible for rail safety, must do more to protect our communities and the environment. The rail cars involved are new models, compliant with the latest federal regulations. Yet they still failed to prevent this incident.” Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said in a recent statement that he “will be contacting Federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, CN and CP this week to reiterate our government’s serious concerns with respect to ensuring our railways are safe.” The NDP MPP who represents Gogama, France Gélinas, said the recent derailments have shaken the area and made residents “nervous” about the railway…“and we need to have substantive changes so that people in Gogama and throughout the northeast can feel safe again.”

Following the 2 CN derailments near Gogama in 3 weeks, federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt says she has made her concerns known to Canadian National Railway. She has asked CN about their inspections and activities in the area. “It does make you think and it makes you wonder…operationally, that they have to make sure what they’re doing is exactly correct…That’s a lot of cars and that’s too many derailments, in my opinion, in a short period of time”, said Raitt.

Canadian National Railways’ most recent derailments, spills and fires have certainly heightened the debate about rail safety in Canada. Read CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for more information about CN derailments in Canada and the United States. See this link for more information on the hazards of shipping oil by rail.

Major Canadian National Railway Derailment and Fire North of Sudbury – Updated (2)

•March 7, 2015 • Comments Off on Major Canadian National Railway Derailment and Fire North of Sudbury – Updated (2)

Railroaded CN derailment Gogama march 7 2015 imageIt’s almost impossible to keep track of the number of reported Canadian National Railway derailments. Early this morning, another CN derailment occurred in northern Ontario, this time about 100 km north of Sudbury and about 3 km from Gogama (CTV NewsSudbury Northern LifeToronto StarSudbury Northern Life [2]). 30 to 40 tank cars loaded with crude oil fell off CN’s mainline tracks, at least 5 caught fire, and others tumbled into the Mattagami River. The media were initially told that only 10 cars had derailed. Today’s derailment is only 37 km from the site of another CN oil train derailment on February 14, 2015.

Railroaded CN derailment Gogama image march 2015Residents in nearby Gogama have been told to stay indoors, and Mattagami First Nations members have been told to avoid drinking water from the community source because an undisclosed volume of crude oil has spilled into the adjacent waterway. The local health unit has advised people who take water directly from Minisinakwa Lake, or from wells supplied by the river, not to use that water for drinking or cooking until further notice. The local fire department recommended anybody with breathing problems to stay indoors until further notice because particles in the smoke might be dangerous. A section of the main highway connecting Timmins with southern Ontario has been closed. An emergency response plan has been activated with local officials. The extent of environmental damage has not yet been determined; however, booms have been deployed in an attempt to contain the spilled oil in local waterways.

The CN train was transporting crude oil from Alberta to eastern Canada. Via Rail has cancelled travel along the mainline.

Railroaded CN derailment Gogama image 2CN confirmed the oil was being shipped in tank cars built to the newer CPC-1232 standard which have enhancements that were supposed to make them less vulnerable to puncture. The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada has already indicated the newer tank car model has performed similarly during derailments to the older DOT-111 tank car model and is really no safer. The newer model tank cars have also punctured in several other recent derailments.

The Gogama Village Inn owner said, “It’s frightening and nerve-wracking, especially after what happened in Quebec. People here are on pins and needles. The tracks run right through town…I’m sure that there’s going to be a lot of talk afterward that this shouldn’t be in the middle of our town…I’d have them move the track right out of town.”

This most recent derailment, is the fifth CN derailment reported so far in Ontario in 2015. On March 5, 16 CN tank cars loaded with crude oil or gasoline residue derailed east of Hornepayne. 29 tank cars loaded with crude oil derailed February 14 near Timmins and 7 cars burned for almost a week. On January 31, 2 CN cars derailed in Richmond Hill – 1 was loaded with hazardous sulphuric acid and 1 was carrying steel. 4 CN grain cars fell off the tracks inside a Thunder Bay rail yard on January 9, damaging the track.

Rounding out the number of CN derailments reported so far in 2015, are 3 in Alberta (1 near Conklin, 1 in Jasper, 1 near Jarrow); 1 in downtown Winnipeg; 1 in the Mont-Joli region of Quebec; 1 in Butler County, Pennsylvania; and 1 northwest of Duluth, Minnesota.

Read CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for hundreds of examples of additional CN derailments in Canada and the United States. It’s important to note that CN does not report all of its derailments. See this link for more information on the many hazards associated with shipping oil and other dangerous goods by rail.

Canadian National Railway Train Derails Near Conklin, Alberta

•March 6, 2015 • Comments Off on Canadian National Railway Train Derails Near Conklin, Alberta

Four Canadian National Railway tank cars loaded with crude oil derailed February 15 in the Windell Yard siding near Conklin, between Fort McMurray and Lac La Biche, Alberta. It appears very few people other than CN were aware of the derailment until recently, when the Lac La Biche Post was able to get some limited information.

Although a CN spokesperson said local emergency services were advised of the accident, the Post determined no local emergency services were contacted by CN at the time of the accident.

Read CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for information on many more CN derailments in Canada and the U.S. See this link for information on the many hazards associated with transporting oil and other dangerous goods by rail.

Another Canadian National Railway Derailment in Northern Ontario

•March 5, 2015 • Comments Off on Another Canadian National Railway Derailment in Northern Ontario

Sixteen Canadian National Railway cars derailed today about 100 km east of Hornepayne, Ontario (Reuters and other media sources). Derailed cars were tank cars loaded with flammable crude oil or gasoline residue. CN’s mainline linking Toronto and Winnipeg remained closed in both directions for an undetermined period of time.

Only a few weeks earlier (Feb. 14), another Canadian National Railway train derailed in northern Ontario south of Timmins. 29 of 100 tank cars loaded with crude oil from Alberta’s tar sands derailed in that accident, and 7 cars burned for several days. More than 1 million litres of crude oil was spilled (CBC News). The extent of environmental damage has not been disclosed.

Read CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for many other examples of CN derailments in Canada and the United States.

Aging Track Caused Canadian National Railway Fiery Derailment – Gainford

•March 1, 2015 • Comments Off on Aging Track Caused Canadian National Railway Fiery Derailment – Gainford

Railroaded CN derailment gainford photo 2Deteriorating rail infrastructure caused 13 Canadian National Railway tank cars to derail and explode in a fireball October 19, 2013 in Gainford, Alberta (Edmonton Journal). The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada recently released its investigative report on the accident that resulted in a local state of emergency and evacuation of 106 nearby homes. 138 people were evacuated for 4 days and one house was damaged by the intense heat.

Four tank cars loaded with crude oil and 9 pressurized tank cars loaded with liquefied petroleum gas (propane) fell off CN’s mainline in a curved section of the tracks. Two of the propane tank cars broke open and caught fire, causing a huge explosion that lit up the night sky. A third tank car released propane from its safety valve, which ignited.

TSB investigators found 16 transverse cracks in old rails, one of which actually split the track. The high (outside) rail in the track curve that broke was marked by visible surface cracks and chunks of rail falling out, said George Fowler, a TSB investigator. The track, made in the 1970s, was due for replacement. The low (inside) rail in the curve had been replaced in March 2013. The new rail sat taller than the old worn rail it replaced, which put more pressure and stress on the older high rail that also needed replacement. Replacing only the low rail “obviously…wasn’t the right decision based on the derailment” said Fowler. “Railroads are good businesses. They are not going to replace an asset before they have to”, Fowler continued.

The TSB’s comments certainly highlight one of the main causes of derailments and other accidents, namely that railway corporations let their rail infrastructure deteriorate to the point where it falls apart. If regular and adequate safety monitoring and maintenance were conducted, the number of derailments would be significantly lower; however, adequate monitoring and maintenance cost money and time, which affects the bottom line of railway companies like Canadian National Railway. Transport Canada has also been repeatedly criticized by the TSB and rail safety experts for inadequate oversight of companies’ rail safety programs. In many cases, federal legislation already exists to address rail safety issues; unfortunately, the legislation is poorly enforced by the federal government. In other cases, new legislation is required to address shortfalls in rail safety measures.

Read CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for hundreds of additional examples of CN derailments, spills, explosions and fires.

More Canadian National Railway Derailments in Pennsylvania and Alberta

•February 28, 2015 • Comments Off on More Canadian National Railway Derailments in Pennsylvania and Alberta

Canadian National Railway is having trouble convincing the public that they run a safe railway, considering the number of reported CN derailments during an 11-day period from February 14 to February 25. Railroaded has already reported on CN derailments February 25 near Duluth, Minnesota; and February 14 near Timmins, Ontario.

Another Canadian National Railway derailment occurred February 25 in Butler County, Pennsylvania, the same day of the Duluth, Minnesota derailment. The Pennsylvania derailment involved 27 cars loaded with iron ore falling off the tracks about 35 miles north of Pittsburgh (Daily Journal). The rail line had to be closed for at least 2 days while the derailed CN cars and loads were cleaned off the tracks, and the damaged tracks repaired. The train was traveling from Conneaut, Ohio to Pittsburgh.

On February 14, the same day of the Timmins, Ontario CN derailment, several cars of a CN train went off the tracks in a Jasper, Alberta rail yard (Fitzhugh). Although CN provided no information to the media, they did park a train in front of the derailed cars to obstruct the view of the accident from the Jasper townsite. A crane was observed helping to get the cars back onto the tracks. CN employees were still working on the tracks where the derailment occurred 3 days following the accident.

During the same 11-day period, a CSX oil train derailed near Charleston, West Virginia on February 16 involving 27 tank cars loaded with Bakken crude oil, about 15 of which caught fire and several plunged into the Kanawha River, spilling crude oil. Two Canadian Pacific Railway locomotives and 13 cars derailed on February 4 north of Dubuque, Iowa. 3 of 11 derailed tank cars loaded with ethanol caught fire and another 3 tank cars plunged into the Mississippi River.

Read CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents  for many more examples of CN derailments in Canada and the U.S.

 

Another Canadian National Railway Derailment – Northern Minnesota

•February 25, 2015 • Comments Off on Another Canadian National Railway Derailment – Northern Minnesota

As debate heightens about the transport of dangerous goods by rail, another Canadian National Railway train derailed early this morning about 25 miles NW of Duluth, Minnesota (Star Tribune). 13 of 107 cars derailed, 3 of which were loaded with naphthalene, a hazardous material best known as the active ingredient in mothballs. St. Louis County Emergency Services Manager Scott Camps said there is a “potential for release of naphthalene when they have to off-load the product from the damaged cars”. Preliminary information suggests that some or all of the other derailed cars were loaded with plastic pellets.

Read CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for information on hundreds of other CN derailments in the U.S. and Canada.

New Tank Cars No Safer than Older Ones

•February 23, 2015 • Comments Off on New Tank Cars No Safer than Older Ones

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada says the new CPC-1232 tank cars are no better than the older DOT-111 tank cars that derailed, punctured, spilled 6.5 million litres of crude oil, and burned in July 2013, killing 47 people, seriously damaging the environment and leveling much of downtown Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

Railroaded CN derailment Timmins 2015 image 3In a preliminary report on the February 14, 2015 derailment of a Canadian National Railway oil train near Timmins in northern Ontario, the TSB says at least 19 of the 29 derailed tank cars were breached or partially breached, releasing crude oil which was being shipped from Alberta’s tar sands region (Reuters). Seven of the derailed tank cars caught fire and burned for about 4 days. “Preliminary assessment of the CPC-1232-compliant tank cars involved in this occurrence demonstrates the inadequacy of this standard given the tank cars’ similar performance to the legacy Class 111 tank cars involved in the Lac-Mégantic accident”, said the Board.

The February 16, 2015 derailment of a CSX oil train in West Virginia also involved the newer model CPC-1232-compliant tank cars. About 15 of 27 tank cars that derailed in that crash caught fire and spilled Bakken crude oil into Armstrong Creek and the Kanawha River.

Considering this latest revelation by the TSB, one has to wonder whether it is actually possible to make shipping oil by rail safe. Visit this link for more information on the dangers associated with shipping oil and other dangerous goods by rail.

 

Major Canadian National Railway Crude Oil Train Derailment and Fire in Ontario – Update

•February 17, 2015 • Comments Off on Major Canadian National Railway Crude Oil Train Derailment and Fire in Ontario – Update

Railroaded CN derailment Timmins 2015 image 1Twenty-nine of 100 tank cars loaded with crude oil from Alberta’s tar sands area derailed about 80 km south of Timmins, Ontario around midnight February 14, and 7 cars were still burning 4 days later (many media sources). The derailment occurred in a remote area on Canadian National Railway’s mainline. Firefighting and environmental crews and equipment are still at the site. As a result of the derailment, which is still blocking CN’s mainline, Via Rail has cancelled all passenger service between Toronto and Winnipeg until the rail line can be cleared. Via made alternate arrangements for those passengers already en route or due to travel since the derailment.

Access to the remote site is challenging for emergency crews, and it will be difficult to determine the volume of crude oil spilled and the extent of environmental damage. CN is not sure when the mainline between Montreal and Winnipeg will reopen, and has said shippers should expect delays.

Railroaded CN derailment Timmins 2015 image 2CN has been asked to keep Ontario Environment, Environment Canada, Health Canada and nearby First Nations updated. Transport Canada and the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada are involved in the derailment investigation.

Earlier in the morning of the same day of the CN derailment in Ontario, 12 Canadian Pacific Railway tank cars loaded with crude oil derailed in the Crowsnest Pass in southern Alberta (Railway Age). Two of the derailed cars toppled over on their sides, and their loads had to be transferred into 3 rescue tankers dispatched from Lethbridge.

Then on February 16, about 27 CSX tank cars loaded with Bakken crude oil derailed near Charleston, West Virginia. About 15 of the derailed cars caught fire and several plunged into the Kanawha River, spilling an undisclosed amount of oil.

Railroaded CN derailment Timmins 2015 image 3These latest derailments, spills and fires intensify the growing debate on the hazards of transporting crude oil and other dangerous goods by rail. The focus of the big railway corporations on the bottom line and their stock performance, at the expense of rail safety, continues to worry Canadians and Americans. Homeowners, businesses and industries located near rail lines are particularly concerned because they are most susceptible to the dangers of derailments, spills, explosions and fires.

For hundreds of examples of additional Canadian National Railway derailments in Canada and the U.S., read CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents, and see this link for more information on the many hazards associated with transporting crude oil by rail.

Fiery Crude Oil Train Derailment in West Virginia

•February 17, 2015 • Comments Off on Fiery Crude Oil Train Derailment in West Virginia

Railroaded CSX derailment wv feb 16 2015 imageA CSX crude oil train derailed February 16 about 33 miles SE of Charleston, West Virginia, resulting in explosions, fires and crude oil spilling into the adjacent Armstrong Creek and Kanawha River. West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency as 2 towns were evacuated, at least one home was destroyed and at least one person was injured (ReutersMetro NewsBloomberg).

Although there is confusion surrounding the number of cars involved in the derailment, it appears that about 27 tanker cars loaded with very flammable Bakken crude oil derailed, and about 15 of them caught fire, several of them plunging into the Kanawha River. Officials, worried about crude oil contaminating the Montgomery water treatment plant on the Kanawha River, shut down the plant shortly following the derailment and spill.

Eyewitnesses said flames shot at least 300 feet into the air, and 9 or 10 tank cars exploded at intervals of about every half hour. Evacuation shelters were set up in Smithers and Montgomery, with the Red Cross and other relief organizations addressing residents’ needs.

The CSX oil train derailment and fires occurred only 2 days following the derailment near Timmins, Ontario of 29 Canadian National Railway tank cars loaded with crude oil from Alberta’s tar sands region. Seven cars caught fire, and were still burning 2 days following the derailment.

See this Railroaded link for more information on the dangers associated with shipping oil and other hazardous goods by rail.

“Safe Rail Communities” Aims to Improve Rail Safety

•February 16, 2015 • Comments Off on “Safe Rail Communities” Aims to Improve Rail Safety

“Actions speak louder than words” – this is a phrase that most definitely applies to Safe Rail Communities, a Toronto-based “non-partisan, community organization advocating for transparency and safeguards with respect to rail safety in our neighbourhoods”. The organization “is calling on the federal government for genuine safeguards and transparency regarding the transport by rail of volatile crude oil and other hazardous material”.

Instead of simply writing about improving the transport of crude oil and other dangerous goods by rail, Safe Rail Communities (SRC) has recently taken action, on several fronts, in an attempt to bring about meaningful and much-needed changes. A brief summary of some of Safe Rail Communities’ initiatives follows, with permission from SRC. Railroaded encourages you to visit their website to get the details.

Railroaded Safe Rail Communities image feb 2015SRC has produced two one-page summaries on their main concerns and call to action (see Summary 1 and Summary 2). They point out that there has been a whopping 28,000% increase between 2009 and 2014 in the number of rail tank cars transporting crude oil across Canada, and it is projected to increase by almost 4-fold again by 2016. These “Bomb Trains” travel daily through our densely populated areas and along our streams, rivers and lakes where derailments can be deadly and cause major environmental disasters. The Transportation Safety Board  (TSB) of Canada has warned the rail industry and Transport Canada since 1991 about the defective DOT-111 tank cars that puncture easily during derailments and other accidents. Although modest changes have been made, rail companies and shippers have been given far too long to get rid of these cars or to retrofit them. The Auditor General has criticized Transport Canada numerous times, pointing out that the federal department has completed only 26% of its planned audits of federal railways over a 3-year period. Despite increases in hazardous shipments by rail, and promises of tougher standards for tank cars and other safety measures, Transport Canada has cut the railway safety budget by more than 20% over the last 5 years.

Other concerns raised by SRC include the fact that railways do not carry enough insurance to cover the costs of a catastrophic derailment. This can be particularly alarming when we learned that crude oil from the Bakken region, North Dakota, is more volatile than traditional crude oil, and is shipped by rail through many Canadian cities, towns and villages. The issues of sufficient insurance coverage and the volatility of Bakken crude tragically came to a head when Canadians and the world watched in horror the devastating results of the derailment disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013, where the spill, explosion and burning of crude oil killed 47 people, levelled much of downtown Lac-Mégantic, and caused major environmental damage.

SRC points out what has become extremely frustrating to municipalities and residents across Canada – that CN and CP are required to provide first responders with only historical data (not real-time data) of dangerous goods being shipped through our neighbourhoods. Residents living near rail lines and the media are prohibited from receiving this vital information.

On December 29, 2014, SRC forwarded a 14-page submission to the Canada Transportation Act Review Panel which considers “limits of the current act as it relates to rail, as well as addresses broader concerns related to rail safety”. SRC has made sound recommendations to the panel on railway air quality, noise level, speed, safety technology, tank car standards and accident insurance. The SRC document also contains an excellent list of references on tank car standards, the carcinogenic effects of railway diesel engine exhaust, and more.

Railroaded Safe Rail Communities logo imageSRC submitted an Environmental Petition to the Auditor General of Canada, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, on January 28, 2015, titled “Environmental risks and the increase in hazardous goods transported by rail”. To quote one sentence of SRC’s background to the petition, “Given the significant increase in shipments of crude oil and hazardous goods by rail, concerns about the safety of the railcars, and quality of life impacts on Canadian communities, we submit this petition to the Government of Canada to identify the actions taken to study and mitigate the impact to the environment and to protect the health and well-being of Canadians.” The petition contains 17 questions addressed to Transport Canada and Environment Canada regarding: tank car standards, transport of the particularly volatile Bakken region crude oil, ability of the public to voice concerns about rail safety legislation and regulations, the need for environmental and public health studies related to the dramatic increase in crude oil transport by rail, speed of crude oil trains, risk assessments of crude oil shipment routes, the true financial and environmental costs of a catastrophic derailment, environmental impacts of the 2013 Lac-Mégantic derailment disaster, adequate railway accident insurance coverage, and details about Transport Canada’s cuts to rail safety budgets.

And finally, SRC has developed this public petition calling on the federal government to make meaningful improvements to rail safety in Canada. SRC encourages people concerned about the skyrocketing increase in the transport of crude oil and other dangerous goods by rail to collect signatures using their petition (or creating their own). You need only 25 signatures to get your MP to present the petition in the House of Commons. SRC also encourages Canadians to direct questions and concerns about rail safety to your MP, through other means.

Railroaded strongly supports SRC’s initiatives, and we encourage people across Canada to get this petition signed and submit it to your MP. See this link for additional information on the many hazards associated with shipping oil and other dangerous goods by rail, and this article in the Vancouver Observer for quotes directly from members of SRC.

Canadian Pacific Railway Derailment in Iowa – Ethanol Loads Catch Fire

•February 5, 2015 • Comments Off on Canadian Pacific Railway Derailment in Iowa – Ethanol Loads Catch Fire

Railroaded CP derailment image feb 4 2015 IowaTwo Canadian Pacific Railway locomotives and 13 cars derailed yesterday in a remote location north of Dubuque, Iowa (Telegraph HeraldRaw Story). At least 11 of the derailed tank cars were loaded with ethanol – 3 of the tank cars caught fire and were still burning this morning. Local firefighters decided to let the fires burn themselves out.

Another 3 cars plunged into the Mississippi River. Ethanol spilled into the river, and downstream communities were notified by the Department of Natural Resources. Emergency officials established a ½-mile evacuation zone around the train. The remote stretch of track where the derailment occurred made access difficult for emergency crews who were worried about water contamination and the possibility of an explosion. The local fire chief said he expected the clean-up to take days to complete. The extent of environmental damage has not yet been determined.

Ethanol is highly flammable and explosive, and derailments of ethanol tank cars have caused deaths, injuries and serious damage in the past. One such incident in Cherry Valley, Illinois in 2009, saw the derailment of 19 Canadian National Railway tank cars loaded with ethanol, resulting in explosions and fires that killed a person and injured 7 to 10 others who were stopped at a nearby railway crossing. A total of 60,000 gallons of ethanol spilled into a local river and resulted in the single-largest fish kill that was not a natural fish kill in the history of Illinois.

This latest derailment, spill and fire will undoubtedly add to the growing debate about the dangers of transporting dangerous goods by rail.

Safety Board Says Transport Canada Must Do More To Keep Railways Safe

•February 2, 2015 • Comments Off on Safety Board Says Transport Canada Must Do More To Keep Railways Safe

Railroaded Transportation Safety Board of Canada logoThe Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada says it remains concerned about the federal government’s legislative oversight of rail safety, 18 months following the derailment, explosions and fires that killed 47 people and leveled much of downtown Lac-Mégantic, Quebec (Globe and Mail). Both the TSB and the Auditor-General have found significant flaws in the oversight of in-house safety management plans developed by railway companies. Some railway safety experts have gone further and accused the federal government of letting railway corporations regulate themselves. While the TSB acknowledged progress on some rail safety issues, it said Transport Canada must do more to ensure railway companies are following their safety management plans.

Railroaded no exploding oil trains imageDuring the past 2 decades, the TSB has made many safety-related recommendations as part of their investigations of derailments and other railway accidents and incidents, but many of their recommendations have not been adequately addressed or not addressed at all by rail companies or Transport Canada. Deteriorating rail infrastructure, dangerous goods tank cars that puncture easily during derailments, and insufficient adherence to safety measures by railway company senior management, have led some railway employees to label crude oil trains as “BOMB TRAINS”.

Canadian National Railway Derailment in Southern Ontario

•February 1, 2015 • Comments Off on Canadian National Railway Derailment in Southern Ontario

Just after noon yesterday, 2 Canadian National Railway cars derailed in Richmond Hill, a town within the Greater Toronto Area (Hamilton SpectatorCBC News). One of the cars was carrying steel, the other was loaded with sulphuric acid, a dangerous good. A section of Elgin Mills Road was closed off to traffic for an undetermined length of time.

Read CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for additional examples of CN derailments and other accidents in Canada and the United States.

 

The Dangers of Hauling Crude Oil by Rail

•January 25, 2015 • Comments Off on The Dangers of Hauling Crude Oil by Rail

Much has been written over the past few years about the many hazards associated with transporting crude oil and other dangerous goods by rail. Curtis Tate of McClatchy Newspapers, Washington Bureau, recently wrote one of the better articles I have read on the subject – “Trains Plus Crude Oil Equals Trouble Down the Track”.

Tate wrote,  “American railroads moved only 9,500 cars of crude oil in 2008 but more than 400,000 in 2013”. He pointed out that government, the railroad industry and shippers have been playing catch-up to long overdue safety improvements because the older rail infrastructure could not safely handle the new products and loads. Weakly-built DOT-111 tank cars and deteriorating tracks, ties, railroad bridges and rail beds have all contributed to major derailments, spills, explosions and fires. Weak regulation and enforcement of rail safety measures by the federal government, coupled with the rail industry’s focus on the bottom line and boosting stock ratings have resulted in significantly decreased safety on the tracks.

Railroaded Stop-Oil-by-Rail logoTate quoted House Representative Michael Michaud who said, “Sometimes it takes a disaster to get elected officials and agencies to address problems that were out there.” One of the many major derailment disasters during the past few years that has caught the attention of governments and industry is the derailment and associated spill, explosions and fires in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec on July 6, 2013, that killed 47 people, leveled much of downtown Lac-Mégantic, and seriously damaged the environment.

The Lac-Mégantic disaster certainly triggered discussion and debate on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border regarding the abysmal safety record of the rail industry. In response, there have recently been some modest improvements in both countries; however, there is a long way to go to make the rail system safe enough to transport crude oil and other dangerous goods. Tate quoted environmentalist John Wathen, “The repairs I see them making right now are more like putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.” Many railway safety experts think it will take more disasters or bigger disasters before government and industry seriously address rail safety, regulation and enforcement. Larry Mann, principal author of the U.S. Federal Railroad Safety Act, was quoted by Tate, “It may not happen today or tomorrow, but one day a town or a city is going to get wiped out.”

In spite of the Lac-Mégantic disaster and many others, the rail industry continues to resist necessary changes to improve rail safety and to increase transparency. The rail industry on both sides of the border insists on protecting what they refer to as security and commercial advantage by not sharing real-time information on what dangerous products are being hauled through our cities and towns , when, and how much. Residents and businesses have no idea what is rolling down the tracks through their communities. As well, railway corporations insist that the federal government maintain sole responsibility for railway safety, so they can continue to ignore state, provincial and local government safety laws. In the U.S., Tate indicated, “The dominant Western carriers, BNSF and Union Pacific, joined by the Association of American Railroads, sued California over a state law that requires them to develop comprehensive oil spill-response plans.” Railway corporations have enjoyed a relatively lax regulatory and enforcement regime under both the U.S. and Canadian federal governments, and why would they want that to change?

I highly recommend you read Curtis Tate’s entire article. Also visit this Railroaded link for more information on hazards associated with hauling crude oil and other dangerous goods by rail.

Canadian National Railway Derailment in Downtown Winnipeg

•January 21, 2015 • Comments Off on Canadian National Railway Derailment in Downtown Winnipeg

Railroaded CN derailment image winnipeg jan 21 2015Nine Canadian National Railway cars derailed during afternoon rush hour today in downtown Winnipeg (Reuters plus other sources). Seven cars were loaded with sand and two tank cars were full of residue. A passer by said some of the cars were tipped sideways. Traffic was delayed as two roads were temporarily closed. It is not known how long the rail line will be out of service.

Also today, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada released a report (TSB Report R13Doo77) on its investigation of the November 6, 2013 derailment of 10 empty Canadian National Railway cars in the Taschereau Yard, Montreal, Quebec (CNW). The derailed cars and the track were damaged. The TSB determined that improper train marshalling by CN contributed significantly to the derailment. CN had a block of empty cars marshalled ahead of a block of loaded cars which resulted in the empty cars experiencing a significantly higher lateral/vertical force than the loaded cars. CN has been warned many times by the TSB about improper train marshalling which has resulted in many other CN derailments.

For more information on CN derailments, read CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents.

Major Train Derailment Near Nipigon Leaks Propane

•January 13, 2015 • Comments Off on Major Train Derailment Near Nipigon Leaks Propane

Twenty-two Canadian Pacific Railway cars derailed this morning between Nipigon and Schreiber about 45 km east of Nipigon, Ontario (CBC NewsCTV News). Seven derailed cars were loaded with propane – a dangerous good – and one of them is leaking. Highway 17 between Schreiber and the Highway 11/17 junction is being closed for about 24 hours by the Ontario Provincial Police as a precaution because the highway runs close to the rail line.

A Hazmat Unit from CP Rail will assess the site before clean up can begin. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is sending 2 investigators to the scene.

A Canadian National Railway train derailed only 4 days earlier in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Canadian National Railway Derailments in Ontario and Quebec

•January 13, 2015 • Comments Off on Canadian National Railway Derailments in Ontario and Quebec

Two Canadian National Railway derailments occurred on the same day – January 9, 2015.

Railroaded CN derailment image thunder bay jan 10 2015Four empty grain cars fell off the tracks in a rail yard in Thunder Bay, Ontario (Chronicle Journal). There were damages to the track that required repair.

A CN freight car loaded with wood chips derailed in the Mont-Joli region of Quebec, forcing a Via Rail passenger train to end its journey in Mont-Joli (CBC NewsMontreal Gazette). The Via train was travelling from Montreal to Halifax. 91 Via passengers had to wait between 5 and 7 hours before boarding buses to continue to their respective destinations.

Read CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for more information on CN derailments, spills, fires and explosions in Canada and the U.S.

Major Canadian National Railway Derailment in Alberta Spills Glue

•January 7, 2015 • Comments Off on Major Canadian National Railway Derailment in Alberta Spills Glue

Early this morning, 23 cars of a 114-car Canadian National Railway train derailed near Jarrow, Alberta, spilling an undisclosed volume of liquid adhesive (a.k.a. glue) from one of the derailed cars (Global NewsPrince George CitizenCBC News). According to CN, the other derailed cars were full of gasoline and ethanol residue, both dangerous products.

Jarrow is located between Kinsella and Irma, about 160 km east of Edmonton. CN had to close down its main line between Edmonton and Winnipeg due to the derailment. Highway 14, the main highway through east-central Alberta was also closed down due to clean up crews along the road.

The extent of environmental damage from the spilled glue is not known. Apparently, CN has told the media that the spilled liquid adhesive is a “non-dangerous good”.  To the contrary and according to Dangerous Goods International, liquid adhesives are a Class 3 dangerous good because they are flammable and can cause extensive fires. Liquid adhesives are also toxic.

CN doesn’t know how long it will take to clean up the spilled material and clear the tracks of derailed cars, and says shipments along the main line will be delayed. The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada has sent a staff member to investigate the major derailment.

According to the TSB, Alberta had the highest number of main line train derailments in Canada last year and during the past 5 years.

See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for hundreds of other examples of main line, siding and rail yard CN derailments in Canada and the U.S.

Train Derailments Not Good News in Canada

•January 2, 2015 • Comments Off on Train Derailments Not Good News in Canada

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Alberta Leads Provinces in Train Derailments

•December 30, 2014 • Comments Off on Alberta Leads Provinces in Train Derailments

There were 27 main line train derailments in Alberta during the first 11 months of 2014, about twice the province’s 5-year average, according to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. It was the highest among the 10 provinces (Calgary Herald). Alberta also leads the pack with 99 main line derailments during the past 5 years (2010-2014), with British Columbia coming in at 93, Ontario at 88, Saskatchewan at 51, Quebec at 45 and Manitoba at 36.

There were many more reported derailments in Alberta and across Canada when rail yards and side tracks are included. As well, many derailments are not reported at all by railway corporations.

Canadian National Railway Train Spills Load Near Niton Junction

•December 30, 2014 • Comments Off on Canadian National Railway Train Spills Load Near Niton Junction

Ten of 60 Canadian National Railway cars loaded with stone fell off the tracks and spilled their cargo late last night. The derailment occurred just north of Niton Junction, about 160 kilometres west of Edmonton, Alberta (CTV News).

Fish at Risk from Coal Fly Ash Spilled in Banff Derailment

•December 30, 2014 • Comments Off on Fish at Risk from Coal Fly Ash Spilled in Banff Derailment

Railroaded CP derailment image banff dec 2014 2The long-term health of fish may be at serious risk after several hundred tonnes of fly ash, a byproduct of coal production, spilled into 40 Mile Creek during a Canadian Pacific Railway derailment December 26 in Banff National Park (Calgary Herald).

The fly ash, when mixed with water, is toxic to fish and other aquatic life. Fly ash contains arsenic, lead, nickel, mercury and uranium, among other materials. Westslope Cutthroat Trout, a species at risk, live in 40 Mile Creek, as do Bull Trout (Alberta’s official fish emblem), Mountain Whitefish and White Suckers. A Parks Canada employee said any fish eggs or other life on the bottom in the creek would have been killed by the fly ash as it settled on the creek bed. Any fish and other aquatic life in the creek would also have had difficulty breathing during the initial spill.

Initial reports indicated 7 of the 15 derailed CP cars fell into 40 Mile Creek; now it’s been confirmed that 8 cars fell into the creek, 7 loaded with coal fly ash and one loaded with soybeans. The bridge over the creek was completely destroyed, and a new bridge has been installed. Two train cars remain partially submerged in the water, one of them serving as a makeshift dam to partially block spilled cargo flowing to the Bow River, a short 200 metres downstream of the spill site. A second rock and filter fabric dam has been installed further downstream in an attempt to protect the Bow River from the toxic spill material. Not only is the fly ash toxic to aquatic life, but it can also cause respiratory problems when airborne for humans and wildlife.

It is not yet known how far downstream of the spill site the toxic fly ash may have settled in 40 Mile Creek and the Bow River.

This derailment and spill of toxic material into a national park creek has once again raised concerns about the transport of dangerous goods by rail.

Train Derailment in Banff National Park Spills Ash and Grain into Creek

•December 26, 2014 • Comments Off on Train Derailment in Banff National Park Spills Ash and Grain into Creek

Railroaded CP derailment image Banff NP dec 26 2014A major derailment of a Canadian Pacific Railway train occurred early this morning in Banff National Park, Alberta (Calgary Herald). 15 cars loaded with fly ash and lentils fell off CP’s main track on a bridge crossing over 40 Mile Creek near the Banff townsite. 7 cars crashed into the creek, spilling some of their contents into the water which turned the water a murky colour. The derailment occurred only about 200 metres upstream of the Bow River, and there is concern that the spilled fly ash will enter this major river which flows through Calgary.

Alberta Environment staff said the impact that the spill will have on fish in the creek will depend on the amount of ash that was spilled, which has not yet been determined. The spilled ash will lower the acidity levels in the creek which would negatively affect fish and other aquatic life. Spilled grain is likely to attract local wildlife including elk, moose and deer. Any grain that has not been cleaned up before spring will also attract bears when they come out of hibernation.

Crews plan on installing a temporary dam on 40 Mile Creek in an attempt to decrease the amount of ash and grain that will flow into the Bow River.

CP said 22 to 27 trains travel on their main line through this area every day, sometimes carrying petroleum products and other dangerous materials.

Work is under way to clean up the mess of rail cars and spilled materials, but it is not known how long this will take.

The major derailment in one of Canada’s best-known and popular national parks has reignited concerns about rail safety and the speeds at which trains travel through sensitive habitats.

Derailed Canadian National Railway Cars Spill Contents

•December 23, 2014 • Comments Off on Derailed Canadian National Railway Cars Spill Contents

Railroaded CN derailment image squamish dec 21 2014Between 2 and 4 Canadian National Railway cars derailed and flipped over December 21, 2014 outside of Squamish, British Columbia near the Culliton Creek Bridge at the end of Paradise Valley Road (Squamish Chief, pers. comm. nearby resident). The cars spilled their contents near a major curve in the tracks. No other details were provided by CN.

For more information on many other CN derailments, see CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents.

Two Canadian National Railway Derailments within 16 Hours in Saskatchewan

•December 14, 2014 • Comments Off on Two Canadian National Railway Derailments within 16 Hours in Saskatchewan

Railroaded CN derailment image Saskatoon dec 13 20145 Canadian National Railway cars filled with grain derailed near the 11th Street bypass in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan December 13 (Global News), only 16 hours following a major derailment of 35 cars near Raymore, Saskatchewan December 12.

The Raymore derailment involved one car carrying isopropanol alcohol (a dangerous good); 22 cars carrying new automobiles which were damaged; and the rest carrying steel, canned goods and mineral oil (Regina Leader PostCBC NewsCJME).

CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents” cites many more CN derailments in Canada and the U.S.

35 Canadian National Railway Cars Derail in Saskatchewan – Updated

•December 13, 2014 • Comments Off on 35 Canadian National Railway Cars Derail in Saskatchewan – Updated

Railroaded CN derailment image Raymore SK dec 201435 Canadian National Railway freight cars fell off the tracks December 12 about 3 km west of Raymore, Saskatchewan (CJMECBC NewsRegina Leader Post). CN had initially said 33 cars derailed. One of the derailed cars was loaded with a dangerous good – isopropanol alcohol. 22 derailed cars were carrying automobiles, while the rest were carrying steel, canned goods and mineral oil. The major derailment forced the closure of CN’s main line.

See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for hundreds of additional examples of CN derailments, spills, fires and explosions.

Major Cities Don’t Want Dangerous Goods on Railways

•December 12, 2014 • Comments Off on Major Cities Don’t Want Dangerous Goods on Railways

Toronto and Mississauga want to end the transportation of dangerous goods by rail through the two cities, in the most densely populated part of Ontario (Toronto Star).

Toronto Mayor John Tory recently told reporters, “I said during the campaign and I’ll repeat it now, that I think we should be moving in the direction, in negotiation with the railways and the federal government, to stop movement of toxic and dangerous substances through the city at all”. Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said, the “right solution” is to stop the transportation of dangerous goods through her city.

Regarding the fact that railway companies refuse to provide real-time information on what dangerous goods they are moving through cities, towns and villages, Mayor Tory said, “I am far from satisfied with the transparency that we don’t see today. I think it’s time to let the sun shine in on this, and it’s not just a matter of some principle of transparency. It’s a matter of people being adequately informed, in a big city like this, of what is traveling through the city, and when and how much.”

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens recently added, “It just seems to be in a lot of ways patently unfair that we can be stonewalled for this information…The more municipalities that come forward and stand firm it’s going to attract more attention from the federal government and the decision-makers at the federal government for sure.” (Windsor Star)

Municipalities across Canada have been putting pressure on the two big rail companies, Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway, to release real-time dangerous goods data, so they are better able to protect their citizens during derailments, spills, fires and explosions. Transport Canada, which is legislatively responsible for overall rail safety, refuses to force rail companies to hand over the real-time data to municipalities.

Canadian National Railway Derailments in Manitoba and Ontario

•December 3, 2014 • Comments Off on Canadian National Railway Derailments in Manitoba and Ontario

Twelve Canadian National Railway cars derailed December 2, 2014 near Brereton Lake in Whiteshell Provincial Park about 115km east of Winnipeg, Manitoba (Global News). It took CN about 16 hours to clean up the derailment and restore service.

A CN tanker car loaded with highly corrosive sulphuric acid flipped off the tracks November 28, 2014 on Vale Canada Ltd. property in Sudbury, Ontario (Sudbury Star).

For many more examples of CN derailments, spills, fires and explosions, see CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents.

Railway Companies’ Bottom Line Continues to Trump Safety

•November 19, 2014 • Comments Off on Railway Companies’ Bottom Line Continues to Trump Safety

Railroaded secret keep a photoIn spite of local municipalities, fire departments and other first responders, politicians and rail safety experts pressing Transport Canada and Canadian rail companies to provide real-time information on what dangerous goods railways are moving through our cities, towns and villages, Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian National Railway and Transport Canada refuse to provide these data (Toronto Star). The information is essentially kept secret until an accident occurs, which is often too late.

Groups like Safe Rail Communities* think any information that would make our rails safer should be made public, particularly following last year’s disastrous derailment, spill, fires and explosions that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Railroaded hazardous materials sign imageQuebec. And the situation is getting worse, as Canadian rail companies transport more and more dangerous, hazardous, toxic and flammable goods across Canada, including crude oil.

Transport Canada does not even require railways to disclose their insurance coverage in the event of accidents because that information is considered commercially sensitive. Nor does Transport Canada release information on track maintenance and inspection reports, as they contain what rail companies consider third-party and commercial information. Transport Canada has repeatedly been criticized for letting the rail industry monitor its own safety.

When asked about the secrecy surrounding rail company emergency plans, York University associate professor Mark Winfield said, “The issue again goes to basic issues of accountability and the balance between the economic interests of the railways and the safety interests of the public being struck in the plans.” Peggy Nash, NDP MP for Parkdale-High Park said the Lac-Mégantic tragedy shone a light on Transport Canada’s “lack of enforcement and poor safety culture”. People have lost trust in the government systems designed to protect the public, she said.

As long as Transport Canada continues to let rail companies’ bottom line trump rail safety, the public and the environment will continue to be subjected to derailments and associated spills, fires and explosions.

Railroaded Safe Rail Communities logo image*Visit the Safe Rail Communities website at this link.

Five More Canadian National Railway Derailments Reported in Past Four Weeks

•November 18, 2014 • Comments Off on Five More Canadian National Railway Derailments Reported in Past Four Weeks

As Canadian National Railway ramps up its crude oil shipments across North America, the corporation continues to be dogged by derailments. The following 5 CN derailments in Canada were reported during the past 4 weeks:

1.  November 17, 2014: Two locomotives collided near CN’s Symington Yard in Winnipeg, Manitoba, injuring an engineer who was sent to the hospital. (Winnipeg Free Press)

Railroaded CN derailment Terrace nov 15 2014 image2.  November 15, 2014: Twenty-six intermodal cars and one locomotive derailed east of Prince Rupert, British Columbia. The derailed cars carried distiller grain, lumber, pulp and rolls of paper. The derailment disrupted CN operations for about 24 hours. (BC Local News)

3.  November 8, 2014: Sixteen cars derailed while entering CN’s Gordon Yard in Moncton, New Brunswick – 10 were loaded with crude oil and 6 cars for transporting automobiles were empty. Over 150 litres of crude oil spilled from one of the derailed cars. The Moncton Fire Chief complained that his department was not contacted by CN about the derailment even though 10 of the derailed cars were filled with flammable product. The fire department was finally contacted over 7 hours following the derailment by a contractor hired to transfer oil from the damaged tank car to a spare car. It took about 2 days to clean up the tracks. (CBC NewsCBC News 2)

4.  October 26, 2014: Nine cars derailed about 130 km north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. One of the derailed cars spilled an undisclosed volume of diesel fuel. It is not known whether any of the fuel spilled into nearby waterbodies. Another one of the derailed cars was loaded with sulphuric acid. It took over 3 weeks to clean up the derailment site, including mobile vacuum units trying to remove spilled diesel fuel. (Soo TodaySoo Today 2)

5.  October 21, 2014: Three cars derailed at an intersection in southeast Calgary, Alberta, closing 52nd Street to vehicular traffic in both directions. One derailed car was loaded with oil, one with automobiles, and a third car was empty. (Calgary Herald)

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

Major Canadian National Railway Derailment and Fire in Saskatchewan

•October 7, 2014 • Comments Off on Major Canadian National Railway Derailment and Fire in Saskatchewan

Railroaded CN derailment Wadena Sask oct 7 2014 imageThis morning, a CN train carrying dangerous goods derailed near Clair and Wadena, Saskatchewan, sending plumes of smoke at least 30 metres into the air and forcing residents from their homes (CBC NewsCTV News).

The train consisted of three locomotives and 100 cars – 26 cars derailed. An explosion and fire came from petroleum distillates which spilled from two of the derailed cars. The fire was huge according to local sources, and was still burning this evening. Local officials were worried about the toxic smoke and kept people eight kilometres away from the scene. About 50 people from Clair were evacuated, as well as others from farm homes in the area. Evacuated people were sent to an operations and reception centre set up in Wadena. School students in Wadena were kept indoors during the day, as a precaution. Local farmers were worried about the safety of their livestock. Huge plumes of thick, black, heavy smoke and fire were reported as local fire departments wrestled with the fire. Provincial officials said detours would remain in place until the area is safe.

Six of the derailed cars were loaded with hazardous materials, four with either hydrochloric acid or caustic soda and two with petroleum distillates. CN refuses to provide real-time data on the hazardous materials they haul across the country, which means municipal fire departments are often left guessing what materials they must deal with in order to protect local residents whenever there is a derailment and spill such as this one.

The advocacy organizations, Transport Action Canada and Environmental Defence, expressed serious concerns about the derailment and about rail safety in general in Canada. Adam Scott of Environmental Defence said, rail companies like CN are not required to publicly disclose the types of hazardous materials being transported on trains. “It’s unacceptable. The municipalities themselves, the communities have no power, no control, and in this case no information even over what’s being run through the rail lines.” Harry Gow of Transport Action Canada, said, “I would say that if one wants to ensure safety in moving hazardous goods, one has to have inspectors who are empowered to do the work, that are trained to do more than just check the company’s paperwork, and are sufficiently numerous and well-resourced to get out on the ground and see what’s going on. The incident in Saskatchewan today is fortunately not occurring in a large town, but that doesn’t excuse the lack of oversight by Transport Canada.”

This is the sixth reported CN derailment in Saskatchewan and the 29th reported CN derailment in the Prairie Provinces during the past year. CN does not report many of its derailments, so the actual number is undoubtedly higher. See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for details of hundreds of other Canadian National Railway derailments, spills and fires in Canada and the U.S.

Second Canadian National Railway Derailment in One Day in Alberta

•September 26, 2014 • Comments Off on Second Canadian National Railway Derailment in One Day in Alberta

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 on Burlington Neighbourhood Frustrated with CN Rail Yard Activities

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 on Canadian National Railway Train Derails Near Vermilion, Alberta

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 on Canadian National Railway Grain Hauling Fine a Joke

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 on Opportunity to Address Railway Noise and Vibration in Canada

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 on Canadian National Railway Derailment Near Central City, Iowa

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 on Canadian National Railway Gets First Fine for Not Moving Enough Grain

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.

Another Canadian National Railway Derailment – The 19th in Alberta in Less Than a Year

•September 17, 2014 • Comments Off on Another Canadian National Railway Derailment – The 19th in Alberta in Less Than a Year

Four Canadian National Railway locomotives and 21 cars derailed in the Mitsue Industrial area about 10km east of Slave Lake, Alberta September 16 (CBC News). Three of the derailed cars were carrying dangerous chemicals: two were carrying sodium chloride and one was carrying sulphuric acid. The Slave Lake Fire Department sent four crews including a dangerous goods team and more than a dozen firefighters to the scene.

This is the third reported Canadian National Railway derailment in or near the Town of Slave Lake within the past four months. The other two were:

1.  June 11, 2014 near Faust about 60km west of Slave Lake when 20 cars fell off the main track. Seventeen cars were full of dangerous goods residue, two were grain hopper cars and one carried lumber.

2.  May 8, 2014 when nine CN cars loaded with wood pulp derailed right in downtown Slave Lake. Some of the cars tipped completely over on their sides and crushed several nearby sheds. Six nearby homes were evacuated.

Yesterday’s derailment is the 19th reported CN derailment in Alberta within the past 11 months. The other 16 include:

1.  September 9, 2014 near Cherhill when eight CN cars filled with gravel fell off the tracks, four of them tipping over and spilling their loads.

2.  August 31, 2014 near Hondo when 15 cars carrying grain derailed, spilling an undisclosed amount of grain.

3.  August 1, 2014 near Lacombe when 16 CN cars carrying grain derailed.

4, 5 & 6.  Mid-July, 2014 in the Edson CN rail yards. One of the derailments occurred July 26 when 2 cars carrying lumber fell off the tracks. There were two other CN derailments in the same yard during the previous few weeks with no details.

7.  July 12, 2014 when 15 cars derailed north of Three Hills. Most of the cars carried general consumer merchandise, while two contained chemicals for household and industrial use.

8.  July 4, 2014 near Whitecourt when six cars flipped over on their sides: three cars carried crude oil and one carried highly volatile methanol. At least one of the tanker cars spilled an undisclosed volume of hazardous product.

9.  June 27, 2014 when 11 grain cars derailed near Chisholm, blocking the main tracks and a railroad crossing for about a day.

10.  May 30, 2014 north of Lac La Biche when about 50,000 litres of molten sulphur spilled from three of seven derailed CN cars. The spill took several days to clean up and CN’s main line was closed for an undisclosed period of time.

11.  March 5, 2014 when two empty grain cars derailed in Beaver County near Edmonton.

12.  January 15, 2014 in Edmonton when three moving CN trains collided. Three locomotives, two tanker cars loaded with dangerous goods and one empty flat car fell off the tracks. One of the locomotives spilled an undisclosed volume of diesel fuel.

13.  December 27, 2013 when seven cars derailed in the Wainwright CN rail yard. Derailed cars were carrying grain and salt.

14.  November 3, 2013 near Peers when 13 CN cars derailed: 12 were loaded with lumber and one carried sulphur dioxide. CN’s main line was shut down while mangled rail cars and spilled broken lumber were cleaned off the tracks.

15.  October 19, 2013 when 13 cars derailed in Gainford, causing massive explosions and fires. Nine of the derailed cars were loaded with propane and four were loaded with crude oil. One of the tanker cars carrying propane exploded and three others caught fire. All 100 Gainford residents plus 25 others living within 2km of the explosions were evacuated for four days. Firefighters were unable to deal with the hot fire and were forced to let it burn itself out, which took four days. The main east-west Trans-Continental rail line through western Canada was shut down for five days. The volume of petroleum product spilled and the extent of environmental and property damages were not disclosed.

16.  October 16, 2013 in Sexsmith when four CN tanker cars loaded with anhydrous ammonia derailed. About 150 homes were evacuated.

For more details on the above accidents and hundreds of additional CN derailments in Canada and the U.S., see CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents. Canadian National Railway intentionally does not report many of its derailments.

Alberta also had the most reports of runaway trains over the last year (see this link). Of 17 runaway trains reported in Canada to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada between July 2013 and June 2014, six occurred in Alberta.

Canadian National Railway Derailment in Michigan

•September 14, 2014 • Comments Off on Canadian National Railway Derailment in Michigan

A Canadian National Railway train derailed about 4:00 a.m. Sunday morning, September 14 in Macomb County, southeastern Michigan, about 20 miles northeast of Detroit (Associated Press). Police said a broken axle caused the accident, but CN provided no further details. Traffic on several major roads was blocked and the track was closed until some time Sunday afternoon.

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

Canadian National Railway Train Derails and Spills Load Near Edmonton, Alberta

•September 10, 2014 • Comments Off on Canadian National Railway Train Derails and Spills Load Near Edmonton, Alberta

Railroaded CN derailment cherhill photo sept 9 2014An eastbound Canadian National Railway train derailed just after noon September 9 near Cherhill, about 100km northwest of Edmonton, Alberta (QMI Agency). Eight cars filled with gravel fell off the tracks and 4 tipped over, spilling their loads on and around the tracks. It is not known how long the main line was shut down to clean up the mess.

CN has had a string of derailments in Alberta during the past few months; see CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for a partial list of these. CN intentionally does not report many of its derailments in Canada and the United States.

Railway Noise and Vibration Negatively Affects Overall Quality of Life

•September 3, 2014 • Comments Off on Railway Noise and Vibration Negatively Affects Overall Quality of Life

Railroaded noise image childAs the shipment of dangerous goods by rail increases, especially crude oil and other petroleum products, residents who live near railways are becoming more concerned about their safety, health, property values and overall quality of life. For example, North Battleford City Council in Saskatchewan, is wrestling with complaints from west side residents regarding the increasing noise and movement of hazardous goods by Canadian National Railway “at all hours of the day and night” (News-Optimist).

One North Battleford resident wrote to City Council, “The piercing horns that blow at over 100 decibels can make you jump out of your skin. The banging and screeching are often so loud that conversations are halted as words are drowned out. People who live half a block from tracks have items rattling on shelves when the trains are shunting…I, along with any other residents of the west side, don’t get a lot of sleep some nights due to the clanging, banging cars, screeching metal, hissing airbrakes and rumbling engines…Buying a home on the west side has always made good financial sense. But that was before the exponential increase in train traffic. Is it fair that people who most likely have the majority of their personal wealth invested in their homes see this wealth eroded through no fault of their own?”

Most cities like North Battleford have noise bylaws that prohibit noises that interfere with the peace and comfort of the community. However, these bylaws do not apply to CN or other railways. Railroaded has received many complaints from residents across Canada similar to those expressed above. Railway noise, particularly train horns or whistles that are blown at road crossings, can often travel several miles, especially on otherwise quiet nights.

It’s high time the federal government, which legislates the manner in which railways operate, address the growing problem of railway noise and vibration, especially at night. The health, safety, property values and overall quality of life for hundreds of thousands of residents in Canada who live near railways are negatively affected by Canada’s antiquated railway legislation.

See this link for more information on the negative impacts of railway noise.

Canadian National Railway Causing Delays to Amtrak Service

•September 2, 2014 • Comments Off on Canadian National Railway Causing Delays to Amtrak Service

Railroaded Amtrack logo imageOn August 29, Amtrak filed an amended complaint with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) seeking an investigation of Canadian National Railway for causing unacceptable delays on the Illini/Saluki service that uses the CN-owned line from Chicago to Carbondale, Illinois (PR Newswire). According to Amtrak, the action is being taken under the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, which indicates Amtrak has a statutory preference in the dispatching of intercity passenger trains before freight trains.

Railroaded CN logo oldThe amended complaint is part of an ongoing case initially filed by Amtrak in January 2012 regarding CN’s performance, which has caused a significant decrease in Amtrak’s on-time performance. Amtrak is asking the STB to investigate the causes of delay on the Illini/Saluki service, and to award damages and other relief if CN is found to have violated Amtrak’s right to preference.

Amtrak claims poor on-time performance creates a major disruption for Amtrak customers due to delayed trains and missed connections. It also negatively impacts Amtrak and state-supported services through decreased ridership, lost revenues and higher operating costs.

An online petition was started in February 2013 by Amtrak customers who asked CN Railway to please stop delaying Amtrak passenger trains. The petition reads, “By ending your delay of Amtrak passenger trains, you’ll help make the use of passenger rail in the United States more attractive and help us reduce our carbon emissions and our contribution to climate chaos.” The petition remains active.

Another Canadian National Railway Derailment Near Edmonton

•September 1, 2014 • Comments Off on Another Canadian National Railway Derailment Near Edmonton

Fifteen Canadian National Railway cars carrying grain derailed early in the morning August 31 near Hondo, about 200km northwest of Edmonton, Alberta (Edmonton Sun). Initial reports suggested 25 cars had derailed, but CN has since lowered the number to 15 – this has not been confirmed. An undisclosed amount of grain was spilled, and the track was closed for some time. Two Transportation Safety Board officials were sent to the site to investigate.

Refer to CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for many more examples of CN derailments in Canada and the United States.

Four More Canadian National Railway Derailments

•August 27, 2014 • Comments Off on Four More Canadian National Railway Derailments

Railroaded CN logo oldThere seems to be no end to the number of Canadian National Railway derailments lately.

This morning, a CN derailment south of York University in Toronto caused delays for several hours on the Barrie and Richmond Hill GO Transit train lines (City News Toronto). As  a result, there was no train service to York University today; shuttle buses were used instead.

Yesterday, two CN cars full of propane and a third empty car toppled off the tracks in Emerson, Manitoba (CBC News). About 40 people who live near the derailment were forced to evacuate from their homes until the derailed cars could be hoisted back onto the tracks again.

Eight CN cars derailed August 20 at Regina’s Co-op refinery, Saskatchewan: 6 tanker cars full of residue, an empty asphalt car and an empty coke car (CJME).

On August 12, 11 empty CN sulfur and centre beam cars  jumped the tracks near the Parsnip River about 145 km northeast of Prince George, British Columbia (CBC News250 News).

See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for hundreds of additional examples of CN derailments. Rail safety experts, environmentalists and hundreds of thousands of residents who live near rail lines are becoming more and more concerned about the growing number of CN derailments and other accidents.

Canadian National Railway Routinely Does Not Report Derailments

•August 27, 2014 • Comments Off on Canadian National Railway Routinely Does Not Report Derailments

Recent comments by Canadian National Railway public affairs spokespeople confirm concerns expressed in the past by the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada that CN routinely does not report derailments.

Emily Hamer of CN recently responded to a question by the media why the public was not informed of a derailment in Regina by saying it is not CN’s practice to release derailment information unless asked by the media (CJME). She also said findings from CN investigations into derailments are generally not released.

Jim Feeny of CN recently told the Edson Leader that derailments are not uncommon and are often not reported by CN.

Such under-reporting of derailments by Canadian National Railway certainly has an impact on the perceived safety record of the rail giant, and on its stock performance. It would be interesting to know how existing and prospective shareholders of CN stock would respond if they were made aware of the actual number of derailments, spills and other accidents incurred by the corporation.

CN is currently being sued by several parties for allegedly manipulating data to improve safety and productivity statistics and for allegedly misleading shareholders.

Railroaded has just updated the document CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents which provides a small sample of the number of CN derailments in Canada and the United States.

Rash of Canadian National Railway Derailments

•August 10, 2014 • Comments Off on Rash of Canadian National Railway Derailments

Seven cars of a 105-car Canadian National Railway train derailed and overturned on a main line August 1, 2014 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (Times-Picayune and other sources). One derailed car was full of difluoromethane residue which is a refrigerant and a dangerous product. (Railway companies erroneously consider a tank car with residue as “empty”, whereas such a tank car can actually contain up to 2,000 gallons of dangerous product.) Two of the derailed cars carried lube oil, one car carried fiber board and three cars were full of plastic pellets that spilled onto the tracks. The derailment shut down local traffic. Local Haz-Mat crews, state Department of Environmental Quality and Louisiana State Police investigated the derailment.

A Via Rail passenger train struck a derailed Canadian National Railway train August 1, 2014 just east of Gananoque, Ontario (Wall Street Journal and other sources). Six cars of a 120-car CN train had derailed on the main line, one car carrying lube oil and five empty lumber cars. The Via train hit one of the derailed lumber cars, puncturing the Via locomotive’s fuel tank and spilling an undisclosed amount of fuel. One of the 300 Via Rail passengers was injured. Via cancelled all trains August 1 between Toronto and Ottawa and between Toronto and Montreal.

Also on August 1, 16 Canadian National Railway cars carrying grain derailed near Lacombe, Alberta (Global News). One road had to be closed due to the derailment and the main track was closed for at least a day.

Two CN cars carrying lumber fell off the tracks in the Edson CN rail yards July 26, 2014 (Edson Leader). There were two other CN derailments in the same yard during the previous few weeks, with no details available. Jim Feeny, CN Public Affairs spokesperson, said derailments are not uncommon and are often not reported by Canadian National Railway. The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada has expressed concern in the past about CN not reporting derailments.

On July 25, 2014, a CN train rammed into a logging truck at an uncontrolled crossing west of Burns Lake, British Columbia, knocking 22 train cars and two locomotives off the track (CTV News). An undisclosed amount of diesel fuel was spilled.

Meanwhile, a family is living in tents near Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, claiming that Canadian National Railway ruined their home during the major derailment January 7, 2014 of 19 CN cars and a locomotive (CBC News). Resulting fires burned for four days. About 150 people were forced to evacuate within a 2-kilometre radius of the fires. Five rail cars were loaded with crude oil and four were full of propane. The Levesque family claim the repair work to their home, paid for by CN, has left their house worse than before the repair work due to poor craftsmanship. The Levesques had obtained a quote of about $160,000 to repair the damage due to the derailment, whereas CN offered only $2,500.

See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for additional examples of CN derailments.

Oil Train Accidents on Rise as U.S. Proposes New Safety Rules

•July 24, 2014 • Comments Off on Oil Train Accidents on Rise as U.S. Proposes New Safety Rules

More than 1.1 million gallons of oil spilled from rail tank cars in the U.S. in 2013…more than the total volume spilled from 1975 to 2012 combined (New Republic).

These data, together with the disastrous oil train derailment, explosions, fire, spilling of 1.6 million gallons of oil, and the deaths of 47 people last July in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, have brought tremendous pressure on the U.S. and Canadian governments to get back in the business of regulating rail safety, after years of letting the rail industry essentially regulate itself.

Railroaded hazardous materials sign imageYesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation proposed the phasing out of thousands of older DOT-111 tank cars within 2 years. These tank cars have been known for decades to puncture easily during derailments and other accidents. The phase-out period for replacing or retrofitting the DOT-111 tank cars is shorter than Transport Canada’s phase-out period of 3 years for the same cars, announced a few months ago (Edmonton Journal). However, rail safety experts and environmental groups in the U.S. say 2 years is too long to wait. Similar criticisms have been made of the 3-year phase-out period in Canada.

Until sturdier tank cars are phased in, the new U.S. rules would also reduce the speed limit for high-hazard trains to 40 miles per hour. It’s been suggested that even sturdier tank cars traveling at speeds of 30 m.p.h. may not be able to avoid getting punctured. Karl Alexy, the staff director of the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety said, “When you begin to look at cars that are derailing at speeds of 30, 40 miles an hour, it’s very difficult, it’s a big ask, to expect that a tank car get hit and not be breached”.

The proposed new U.S. rules  would also require better labels on hazardous cargo and require rail companies to perform a risk assessment before choosing routes for the transport of hazardous goods.

Railroaded no exploding oil trains imageFred Millar, an independent rail safety consultant, said the rules for new tank cars and speed limits are “very weak”. He criticized the Obama administration for not requiring more transparency on the oil train routes and the risks they pose to public safety and security.

It’s no surprise that the Association of American Railroads and the American Petroleum Institute are complaining about the proposed rule changes, arguing that lower speed limits are unnecessary and would cut into their profits.

See this link for more information on the many risks associated with shipping oil and other hazardous goods by rail.

Canadian National Railway Train Derails and Spills Fuel

•July 21, 2014 • Comments Off on Canadian National Railway Train Derails and Spills Fuel

Three Canadian National Railway locomotives and 3 CN cars derailed, striking a Wisconsin and Southern train last night at a rail crossing in Slinger, Wisconsin, causing at least another 7 cars to derail. About 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled from one of the locomotives (Washington Times plus several other sources).

A CN locomotive engineer and a conductor were taken to hospital with unspecified injuries. One hundred people were evacuated because of the spill and a temporary shelter was set up at a local middle school. Hazmat crews were on site, and 6 separate fire departments responded to the disaster.

The derailed CN cars were carrying frac sand which is hazardous to the human respiratory system. The Wisconsin and Southern train was carrying steel, lumber and plastic pellets. Some of the lumber spilled during the derailment. The extent of environmental damage caused by the fuel spill was not disclosed.

Crews worked this morning to upright the derailed cars.

See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for many more examples of CN derailments and spills.

Common-Sense Way of Decreasing Train Noise

•July 17, 2014 • Comments Off on Common-Sense Way of Decreasing Train Noise

Railroaded noise imageRail and Reason has recently posted this article on a simple, common-sense, and inexpensive way for decreasing disturbance caused by loud train whistles or horns, especially at night.

In Tasmania, a local railway company, TasRail, was so inundated with complaints about loud train whistles at road crossings that they did something about it. TasRail announced they would use a low-note horn between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., reduce the minimum duration a horn must be sounded as it approaches a road crossing (from 4 seconds to 1 second), and stop using a horn within TasRail’s operating and maintenance facilities in certain circumstances.

Our Canadian rail industry and Transport Canada could certainly learn a thing or two from this Tasmanian common-sense solution to a very aggravating problem.

Another Canadian National Railway Derailment in Alberta

•July 14, 2014 • Comments Off on Another Canadian National Railway Derailment in Alberta

Railroaded CN derailment Three Hills image July 12 2014The fifth reported Canadian National Railway derailment in 6 weeks in Alberta occurred July 12 north of Three Hills, about 60 kilometres northeast of Calgary (CBC News). 15 cars derailed, causing disruptions to transportation services in the area. Most of the cars carried general consumer merchandise, while 2 carried chemicals for household and industrial use. Alberta Emergency Alert indicated a local road was closed for an undisclosed length of time.

Other reported CN derailments in Alberta during the past 6 weeks include:

1. July 4: 6 cars carrying crude oil, methanol, lumber and gravel derailed and flipped over near Whitecourt.

2. June 27: 11 grain cars derailed near Chisholm.

3. June 11: 20 cars carrying dangerous goods residue, grain and lumber derailed near Faust.

4. May 30: About 50,000 litres of molten sulphur spilled from 3 of 7 derailed cars north of Lac La Biche.

See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for hundreds of additional CN derailments in North America.

The number of main-track and non-main-track derailments in Canada has recently been reported to be increasing significantly since the Lac-Mégantic oil train disaster that killed 47 people last July.

Dangerous Goods Rail Accidents Rising Following Lac-Megantic Oil Train Disaster

•July 13, 2014 • Comments Off on Dangerous Goods Rail Accidents Rising Following Lac-Megantic Oil Train Disaster

Railroaded dangerous goods sign imageThere were more railway accidents in Canada involving dangerous goods in 2014 than during the same time period last year; in fact, dangerous goods accidents increased by over 21%.

CTV News recently reported, “According to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, there were 74 instances of railway accidents involving dangerous goods from January to May 2014, compared to 61 from January to May 2013. During those same time periods, non-main-track derailments (involving dangerous goods) increased from 38 to 49″, a 29% increase.

The number of main-track derailments from January to May involving dangerous goods increased by 20% from 2013 to 2014. The number of non-main-track collisions involving dangerous goods during the same time period increased by over 15% from 2013 to 2014.

The total number of non-main-track derailments from January to May involving 1 or 2 cars increased from 177 in 2013 to 224 in 2014, a 27% increase. The number of non-main-track derailments involving 3+ cars increased by over 14% from 2013 to 2014.

The total number of main-track derailments from January to May involving 1 or 2 cars increased by over 9% from 2013 to 2014, and the number of main-track derailments involving 3+ cars increased by over 15% from 2013 to 2014.

The number of rail accidents that involved fires/explosions from January to May increased by a whopping 86% from 2013 to 2014.

The number of train incidents from January to May increased by 7% from 2013 to 2014, and the number of dangerous goods leaker incidents increased by over 19% from 2013 to 2014.

It is important to note that the above statistics represent only those data reported to the TSB by Canadian railways. There has been a history of under-reporting in this regard.

Although Transport Canada has made, or will be making, some changes to regulations in an attempt to improve rail safety, municipalities and rail safety experts are calling for more meaningful changes to address the ever-increasing transport of dangerous goods, including crude oil, by rail. Transport Action Canada President Harry Gow recently said the Lac-Mégantic oil train disaster was a wake-up call for the federal government (CTV News). The Transportation Safety Board had been recommending for decades that Transport Canada tighten up its rail safety rules, appoint more inspectors and generally do more work to improve safety. Unfortunately, during the past few decades, Transport Canada had all but relinquished its rail safety oversight responsibilities to the rail industry, permitting industry to monitor itself and to provide incomplete reporting to government.

Gow said some of the changes that would improve rail safety are not possible; for example, installing bypasses away from populated areas would be too expensive of an undertaking, and as Roger Annis recently wrote in Truthout, “It would cost vast sums to upgrade tracks and wagons, route trains around the largest or most vulnerable population centres, lower train speeds, and so on. The railways and oil shippers are having none of it.” Annis considers oil train safety an oxymoron, and suggests transporting crude oil by rail cannot be made safe. If this indeed is the case, and in light of the Lac-Mégantic oil train disaster a year ago, our federal and provincial governments will eventually be forced to make a decision about what is more important…continuation of the out-of-control pace of oil extraction and transport by rail…or people’s lives.

More Canadian National Railway Derailments in Alberta and Ontario

•July 10, 2014 • Comments Off on More Canadian National Railway Derailments in Alberta and Ontario

Railroaded CN derailment image brockville july 10 2014Early this morning, 26 Canadian National Railway cars derailed in Brockville, Ontario, including 13 tanker cars carrying hazardous goods residue (up to 2,000 gallons per car), 5 cars carrying carbon powder and 2 loaded auto carriers (ReutersCTV News). Automobiles that were being transported were strewn across the tracks. Via Rail service is being disrupted for at least 2 days for Railroaded cn derailment brockville imagethousands of passengers due to the derailment on the main line. A total of 29 trains won’t be running on the track today. The site is being assessed for any spills or leaks.

On June 27, 11 CN grain cars derailed, blocking the main tracks and a public railroad crossing for about a day near Chisholm, Alberta (South Peace News). Gene Crick, a Chisholm resident, said, “I just don’t know what to think of it. But something’s got to be done because, what the heck, three derailments in a row?Regarding this particular CN derailment, he said, “The mess that I’d seen was the tracks, a real mess; twisted right up in the air. It’s just like a cat came in and plowed it up.”

Railroaded has already posted a blog on the July 4 CN derailment near Whitecourt, Alberta, where 5 to 6 cars carrying crude oil, methanol, lumber and gravel flipped over on their sides. See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for many more examples of CN derailments and spills.

“Stop Oil by Rail” Call to Action, July 6-13

•July 6, 2014 • Comments Off on “Stop Oil by Rail” Call to Action, July 6-13

“Keep the oil off the rails and in the ground.”

Railroaded Stop-Oil-by-Rail logoThat’s the message for the week of action across North America starting July 6 to commemorate the 47 people who were killed in Lac-Mégantic by the oil train that derailed July 6, 2013, spilling 6 million litres of oil into the environment, exploding and burning for days, and destroying much of downtown Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. The town has still not recovered from one of the worst rail disasters in history.

The one-week commemoration event is spearheaded by Oil Change International, 350.org, Forest Ethics and the Sierra Club (see this link). The campaign states, “Lac-Mégantic’s struggle is a grim reminder to us all: Big oil will stop at nothing to extract, transport, and burn every drop of oil in the ground. No matter the risk, no matter the cost to public health, safety, and the climate, the oil industry will jump at every opportunity to profit. But now is the time when we say NO MORE. No more exploding trains. No more tar sands. No more reckless endangerment of our communities and our climate.”

Despite the Lac-Mégantic disaster and many other oil train derailments, spills, explosions and fires, the oil and rail industries are forging ahead with grandiose plans to expand oil-by-rail in Canada and the United States. Read “Runaway Train: The Reckless Expansion of Crude-by-Rail in North America” for details of the oil and rail industries’ current and planned shipments of crude-by-rail. The report, recently prepared by Oil Change International, suggests there may be a 5-fold increase in oil train traffic in North America, threatening communities, lakes, rivers and streams, with 675 trains of 100 tank cars each carrying a total of 45 million barrels of oil through North American communities every day.

Le Carré Bleu Lac-Mégantic, a local citizen group in Lac-Mégantic, has been calling for greater transparency in the rebuilding of their town following the oil train derailment nearly a year ago. They want the rail line through the centre of downtown to be rerouted around the town. Many residents don’t want any oil train traffic whatsoever near their town.

How many more oil train disasters like the one at Lac-Mégantic will it take to convince the oil and rail industries and federal politicians in Canada and the U.S. that oil and other hazardous goods cannot be transported safely by rail?

Railroaded stop oil by rail image

Oil-by-Rail Week of Action Starts July 6

•July 4, 2014 • Comments Off on Oil-by-Rail Week of Action Starts July 6

Railroaded stop oil trains image and message

Canadian National Railway Derailment and Spill Near Whitecourt, Alberta

•July 4, 2014 • Comments Off on Canadian National Railway Derailment and Spill Near Whitecourt, Alberta

Railroaded CN logo oldAlthough early reports are conflicting, it appears a Canadian National Railway train carrying crude oil, methanol, gravel and lumber derailed early this morning near Whitecourt, Alberta (QMI AgencyReuters). At least 1 tanker car is leaking an undisclosed amount of hazardous product after 5 to 6 cars of an 81-car train derailed and flipped over on their sides.

Three of the cars contain crude oil and 1 contains methanol, a highly combustible solvent and fuel. The methanol car is under stress and the local Whitecourt Fire Deputy Chief said if the methanol gets into the groundwater it can be toxic for waterlife. A spill response team was on the scene and the Transportation Safety Board has been called in to investigate the cause of the derailment and spill. About 20 emergency response crew members were on site.

Meanwhile, concerns were raised at a June 25 meeting hosted by the Town of Slave Lake about 3 recent CN derailments in and near Slave Lake, Alberta (South Peace News). The 3 derailments include 1 in Slave Lake May 8, 1 at Faust June 11, and a third during a post-repair test. Municipal officials were nervous about the recent spate of local derailments and the risks posed by increasing rail shipments of crude oil and other hazardous goods. Meeting attendees were also concerned about the fact CN had no plans to upgrade the tracks due to heavier trains travelling the line.

See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for hundreds of additional examples of CN derailments and spills.

Reckless Expansion of Crude-by-Rail in North America

•July 3, 2014 • Comments Off on Reckless Expansion of Crude-by-Rail in North America

Oil Change International has recently released a 30-page report titled, “Runaway Train: The Reckless Expansion of Crude-by-Rail in North America”.

As quoted from the May 2014 report, “This report has detailed the reckless growth of the crude-by-rail trade in North America and described where and how this trade is operating, as well as future plans for the industry. For the past five years, the oil industry has charged forward with this mode of transport without any regard for the safety of the communities it passes through. While the most recent figures for actual crude-by-rail shipments suggests that some one million bpd of crude oil is loaded and unloaded to and from trains every day in North America, the capacity of the system is already over three times that, and could grow to over five times today’s traffic. This threatens thousands of communities across North America with the specter of exploding trains and spilling oil”

A few of the report’s key findings are:

1. 188 terminals in Canada and the U.S. are actively loading and unloading crude oil onto and off trains.

2. Roughly 135 crude oil trains with 100 tank cars each are moving every day through North America which means, at any given time, there are about 9 million barrels of oil moving through North America.

3. If all current and planned operations were utilized to full capacity, 675 trains with 100 cars each would be carrying about 45 million barrels of oil through North America every day.

Railroaded no exploding oil trains imageThe report concludes, “Citizens and local governments across North America are taking action to oppose crude trains passing through their communities and to fight against new or expanded terminals in their midst. Further action is needed to ensure that regulators put the safety of communities above profits for the oil and rail industries. Communities need to organize to stop this runaway train in its tracks. This report and the online map that accompanies it seek to assist that process by providing data on what the crude-by-rail industry is doing, where it is operating, and what it has planned.”

This report is a “must-read” for anyone who lives near rail lines and anyone who is concerned about trains, often referred to as “Bomb Trains”, carrying hazardous crude oil through our communities and along our rivers, streams and lakes. Oil Change International will be following up with additional reports in the future that will consider: the economics of crude-by-rail, safety, and climate change issues. See this link for more information from Oil Change International. Railroaded has reported many times in the past on the hazards of shipping oil by rail – see this link.

Canadian National Railway Derailment of Dangerous Goods Near Faust, Alberta

•June 12, 2014 • Comments Off on Canadian National Railway Derailment of Dangerous Goods Near Faust, Alberta

A Canadian National Railway train derailed around 3:45 p.m. June 11 near the hamlet of Faust, Alberta, about 60km west of Slave Lake (Global News).

Twenty cars fell off the main line tracks: 17 cars carrying dangerous goods residue (up to 2,000 gallons per tank car), 1 lumber car and 2 grain hopper cars. Three investigators with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada have been sent to the scene to determine what caused the accident.

On May 8, another CN train derailed on the same main line in downtown Slave Lake. Nine derailed cars were full of wood pulp, some of them tipped over on their sides. Six nearby residences were evacuated. About 245 feet of track had to be replaced following that derailment.

See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for many more examples of CN derailments.

Two More Canadian National Railway Derailments

•June 5, 2014 • Comments Off on Two More Canadian National Railway Derailments

Railroaded CN logo oldAbout 50,000 litres of molten sulphur were spilled May 30, 2014 when 7 Canadian National Railway cars derailed 72 kilometres north of Lac La Biche, Alberta (Brandon Sun). Initial reports suggest the molten sulfur spilled from 3 of the 7 derailed cars. The CN main rail line was shut down for an undisclosed period of time, as clean up of the spill took several days. Local residents were concerned why CN had not notified them of the derailment, and they were only made aware of the accident numerous days later by a Canadian Press story.

At least 2 CN rail cars derailed June 4, 2014 in the City of Ladysmith, Wisconsin, as the last 5 cars in a longer train became disconnected (Leader-Telegram). One of the derailed cars tipped over. CN did not provide any other details.

See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for hundreds of additional examples of CN derailments and spills.

Fire Departments Poorly Prepared for Oil Train Fires

•May 26, 2014 • Comments Off on Fire Departments Poorly Prepared for Oil Train Fires

Railroaded Lac Megantic derailment photoAs trains hauling flammable liquids, including crude oil, are increasing in number in North America, fire departments are becoming increasingly concerned about their ability to effectively deal with the massive fires and explosions that result from derailments and spills. The situation is becoming particularly hazardous as the number of derailments is increasing. The Chicago Tribune wrote yesterday, “The roster of fiery derailments has steadily grown along with the flow of volatile crude oil from the booming Bakken fields of North Dakota, Montana and Canada.”

The Tribune article focused on Chicago-area fire departments, indicating, “Few Chicago-area fire departments have enough firefighting foam and equipment to respond effectively to the roaring infernos seen near Rockford and elsewhere in recent years when multiple railroad tank cars carrying flammable liquids derail and explode…So-called unit trains, rolling pipelines with more than a hundred tank cars hauling millions of gallons of crude oil, have become game changers for emergency responders, posing new threats and requiring updated safety strategies, experts say.” Chicago-area fire departments say more oil trains, often referred to as “Bomb Trains”, run more frequently through Chicago suburbs since Canadian National Railway purchased the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway in 2009.

Railroaded CN derailment and fire June 19 2009 photoMany Illinois firefighters remember the disastrous Canadian National Railway derailment in Cherry Valley near Rockford in 2009 where 19 tank cars loaded with ethanol derailed and erupted into a massive fireball, burning one woman to death, causing her 19-year-old pregnant daughter to lose her baby, and injuring about 10 others. Firefighters had about 400 gallons of foam on hand and more on the way but it wasn’t enough to put out the roaring fire. Firefighters could do little but let the blaze burn itself out and adopt a “defensive position” a half mile from the fire which burned for 9 hours. About 600 homes had to be evacuated.

As the number of oil trains skyrockets, firefighters across North America are becoming more fearful. In the U.S. alone, crude shipments have grown from 9,500 tank car loads in 2008 to more than 400,000 in 2013, based on data from the Association of American Railroads. “It’s truly the worst-case scenario for a fire department, and it’s not the kind of thing you can staff for or have enough equipment for”, said Jim Arie, Barrington’s Fire Chief. “We could do all the training in the world and have all the equipment in the world, but if one of those trains comes off the rails and creates an issue in a very densely populated area, our exposure would be very significant”, said Aurora Fire Chief Jim Lehman. “Our ability to deal with an incident of that magnitude would be very taxing.” (Both Barrington and Aurora are in Illinois.)

See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents  for hundreds of additional examples of CN derailments, and this link for the many risks associated with shipping oil and other hazardous liquids by rail.

Employees’ Complaints Against Canadian National Railway

•May 20, 2014 • Comments Off on Employees’ Complaints Against Canadian National Railway

Railroaded whistleblower imageOn May 7, 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ruled Wayne Laidler had been wrongfully fired by Canadian National Railway (Times Herald). The case, considered a whistleblower lawsuit, stems from Laidler’s firing after he refused to exit his train to conduct an inspection of an oncoming train at a Flint, Michigan substation in December 2012.

Laidler argued, “But my train was stopped on a bridge. It was 3 a.m., it was dark, and it was foggy. It was not safe for me to climb out of my train, and onto the bridge to inspect the oncoming train. There was no safe place to stand.” The OSHA ruling agreed with Laidler’s claims. CN violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act, and has been ordered to reinstate Laidler with guaranteed pay and monetary compensation. He is to receive $92,916 in lost wages plus interest, $6,408 of lost vacation pay, $45,000 for the emotional stress of being wrongfully terminated, $100,000 from Canadian National Railway in order to discourage repetitive behaviour from CN, and an amount equal to his attorney’s fees.

Railroaded discrimination imageJessica Ballard, an African-American and former Canadian National Railway worker, is suing CN over alleged racial discrimination when she was fired in 2012 (Chicago Sun-Times). The lawsuit, filed May 15 in U.S. District Court, claims CN violated the Civil Rights Act and the Illinois Human Rights Act. Ballard alleges that a white female supervisor discriminated against her for about a year, manufactured examples of improper conduct, conducted “sham” investigations regarding minor infractions, and intentionally created a harassing and stressful work environment for Ballard. The lawsuit seeks an undisclosed amount in damages, reinstatement to her old job, or receipt of future wages she would have earned in her position before she was fired.

Following a whistleblower investigation, the OSHA ordered Canadian National Railway in April 2014 to reinstate a former conductor who had been fired after reporting a workplace injury (Journal Sentinel). CN was also ordered to pay the employee $352,000 in back wages, compensatory damages and punitive damages.  An OSHA administrator said, “No worker should feel his job is at risk for reporting an injury or seeking medical attention.” The conductor injured one of his arms in early 2011 while working in Manitowoc for Wisconsin Central Ltd., a business unit of CN.

In a February 4, 2014 lawsuit against CN, Solomon Perry, a former conductor at Illinois Central Railroad Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Canadian National Railway, claimed he was racially discriminated against based on being African-American (Chicago Sun-Times). His lawsuit claimed he was repeatedly harassed, assaulted and subsequently terminated.

Illinois Central Railroad Co., a CN subsidiary, was cited in December 2013 by the OSHA for 1 wilfull and 6 serious safety violations for exposing workers to lead hazards (Insurance Journal). Proposed penalties totalled $110,500.

In 2013, the Federal Court upheld a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision awarding a fired CN conductor $35,000 for discrimination based on family status (Toronto Star). CN had fired a woman in 2005 for not accepting an employment transfer from Jasper, Alberta to Vancouver, British Columbia due to her inability to make appropriate childcare arrangements. Subsequently, 2 other female conductors at CN also made successful claims against CN.

Criminal Negligence Charges Laid in Lac-Megantic Rail Disaster

•May 13, 2014 • Comments Off on Criminal Negligence Charges Laid in Lac-Megantic Rail Disaster

Railroaded Lac Megantic derailment photo 10Criminal negligence charges are being laid against Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MMA) Railway and 3 of its employees in relation to the July 6, 2013 runaway oil train derailment, explosion and fire that killed 47 people, leveled much of downtown Lac-Megantic and spilled 5.5 to 6.5 million litres of crude oil (Edmonton Journal).

The rail company and Thomas Harding, the lone engineer in charge of the train; Jean DeMaitre, MMA’s manager of train operations; and Richard Labrie, MMA’s railway traffic controller, each face 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death. If convicted, the maximum sentence for a person is life in prison, and there is also a possibility of fines. For the railway company, if convicted, there are no minimum or maximum fines – it’s all up to the judge. The police investigation is ongoing and it is possible additional charges could be laid.

The Lac-Megantic rail disaster was one of the worst in Canadian history, and one of the largest environmental disasters in North American history.

See this link for more information on the Lac-Megantic derailment disaster, and see this link for more information on the hazards of shipping oil and other dangerous goods by rail.

Concerns Grow about Secret Railway Hazardous Goods Information

•May 13, 2014 • Comments Off on Concerns Grow about Secret Railway Hazardous Goods Information

Railroaded has previously blogged about the need for municipalities and the public to receive information from railway companies on what hazardous goods are being transported (and when) through our cities, towns, villages and other communities. Unfortunately, a protective direction issued by the federal government – Transport Canada – last November directs Canada’s rail companies to provide only year-old data to municipalities in aggregate form on a quarterly basis, which is next to useless for first responders should an accident occur. And, rail companies will provide these year-old data to municipalities only after they have formally agreed not to share this information with anyone else.

Railroaded secret keep a photoThese confidentiality agreements, or gag orders, are preventing municipalities from sharing any hazardous goods data with their residents, even the hundreds of thousands of residents who live right next to railroads and who would be directly affected if a derailment or other accident occurred. Municipalities are becoming increasingly concerned about these gag orders and about not receiving real-time information about dangerous goods travelling through their communities (Edmonton Journal). For example, White Rock, British Columbia Mayor Wayne Baldwin was recently quoted saying, “This goes back many years. The railroad is king, right? That psyche has carried forward to modern day. They’re not responsive to the public. They really don’t care. They have a right to use their tracks and by God they’re going to use them. It’s the dollar Almighty that’s the bottom line.” Baldwin believes the confidentiality agreements are simply a way for railways to reduce public scrutiny of their operations. He continued, “What it really comes down to is they really don’t want people to know because they don’t want people to get upset. And if people are upset it will cause them some difficulties and they just don’t want to be bothered with the hassle.”

Claude Dauphin, President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), recently said municipalities will continue to push for additional information from railways, including routing of hazardous goods and more current information on cargo movements. He said, “It’s not over, it’s not all settled.”

Railroaded cannot believe that people who live next to railroads are legally prohibited from obtaining information on what types of dangerous goods are travelling by their homes and the timing of such movements. Montreal-based Canadian National Railway provides the weak excuse that CN “does not disclose the routes it uses to move commodities on its network for security reasons, and does not identify its customers or origins of traffic owing to commercial confidentiality.” On the other hand, the Chair of the FCM’s railway safety working group, Doug Reycraft, has said, “Whenever there’s any discussion with railways about sharing information, they seemed concerned about it getting into the hands of their competitors and undermining their position.” Until the federal government insists that the safety of Canadians is more important than the rail industry’s bottom line, we will continue to be in the dark about the dangerous goods that travel through our communities and along our rivers and lakes.

Two Oil Train Derailments and Spills Only Eight Days Apart

•May 12, 2014 • Comments Off on Two Oil Train Derailments and Spills Only Eight Days Apart

As the transportation of oil by rail is increasing at alarming rates, the number of derailments and spills is also increasing. The latest reported derailment and spill occurred May 9, 2014 in northern Colorado, only 8 days following a derailment and major spill in Virginia.

Railroaded derailment Colorado May 9 2014 photoSix Union Pacific Railroad tank cars of a 100-car oil train derailed last Friday morning, May 9, west of LaSalle about 45 miles north of Denver, Colorado (Denver PostAssociated Press). The derailed cars toppled along the banks of the  South Platte River, some of them ending upside down. At least one tank car spilled about 6,500 gallons of crude oil at a rate of 20-50 gallons per minute. Oil booms were placed on the river, but no oil was reported to have entered the river. The train was loaded in nearby Windsor with crude oil from the Niobrara shale formation and was heading for New York. The rail line was shut down for about 3 days. The extent of environmental damage was not disclosed. Contaminated soil will need to be removed and replaced with clean soil.

Railroaded CSX derailment April 30 2014 photoAbout 14 cars of a 105-car CSX train derailed April 30, 2014 in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia, sending extensive flames and thick black smoke high into the air (Edmonton JournalHuffington Post, plus other sources). Nearby buildings were evacuated and warnings were issued to avoid part of the city. About 4 tanker cars were punctured and at least 50,000 gallons of crude oil were spilled, some of it burning and some of it spilling into the James River. Firefighters let the fire burn out. At least 6 of the derailed tank cars rolled off the tracks and down the river bank, some falling right into the river. The train was heading from North Dakota to Yorkstown, Virginia. The extent of damage including to the environment is not known, although initial estimates suggest at least 20,000 gallons of oil spilled into the river and impacts might be felt as far as 150 miles downstream. The derailment occurred near a popular fishing spot on the James River.

For more information on the many risks associated with shipping oil by rail, see this link. As the rail industry’s bottom line continues to trump rail safety, we can expect the number of oil train derailments and spills to rise, posing threats to the environment, property and human safety.

More Canadian National Railway Accidents

•May 11, 2014 • Comments Off on More Canadian National Railway Accidents

Canadian National Railway experienced several derailments and other accidents during the past week.

On May 9, 2014, 6 CN rail cars fell off the tracks just outside Grand Falls, New Brunswick, as the train was exiting the main line onto a side track (4-Traders). Two of the derailed cars were carrying automobiles, 2 had fertilizer, 1 carried railway ties and 1 was empty. It is not known how long the tracks were closed to clean up the derailed cars.

Railroaded CN derailment slave lake 2014 photo 3Nine CN cars loaded with wood pulp derailed on CN’s main line in downtown Slave Lake, Alberta on May 8, 2014 (CBC NewsEdmonton Journal, plus other sources). Some of the cars tipped completely over on their sides, and crushed several nearby sheds. Six nearby residences were evacuated. About 245 feet of track had to be replaced, as the main rail line and several roads were closed down for some time.

A Canadian National Railway locomotive fuel tank punctured, spilling 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel in Racine County, Wisconsin on May 4, 2014 (The Republic). Apparently, the train hit a piece of metal on the tracks which punctured the fuel tank. Crews were able to clean up only about 1,600 gallons of the spilled diesel fuel and the rest soaked into the ground. Local officials were concerned about possible contamination of very shallow nearby water wells. The local fire chief said soils contaminated with hazardous liquids are typically replaced with new soil. The extent of environmental damage was not disclosed.

Plainfield Trustee Jim Racich called local police on May 6, 2014 after he noticed a half-mile long Canadian National Railway train hauling oil or chemical tankers parked near downtown Plainfield, Illinois for hours with the locomotives running but no one inside the locomotive cabs (CBS). Racich believes the railroad practice is unsafe and hopes state and federal legislators change legislation to make it unlawful to leave running locomotives carrying hazardous goods unattended.

For information on hundreds of additional CN derailments and other accidents, see CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents.

Railroaded CN derailment slave lake 2014 photo 2

B.C. Train Derailments Jump 21% in 2013

•April 26, 2014 • Comments Off on B.C. Train Derailments Jump 21% in 2013

Railroaded CN derailment b.c. jan 3 2013 photoThe Vancouver Sun recently reported that train derailments in British Columbia increased 21% to 110 incidents in 2013, the highest in 5 years, based on Transportation Safety Board of Canada data. That compared with 91 derailments in B.C. in 2012. Canadian National Railway was involved in 57 of the 2013 derailments, Canadian Pacific Railway in 50 and British Columbia Railway in 3.

Three of the more significant B.C. derailments in 2013 involved Canadian National Railway trains. Twelve CN cars carrying sulphur derailed near Chetwynd on May 15, 15 cars carrying ore derailed near Tumbler Ridge on August 1, and the largest liquid spill involved a punctured CN locomotive fuel tank spilling more than 3,000 litres of diesel fuel on January 30 in a Prince George rail yard. Most derailments occur in rail yards or remote stretches of track far from the public eye and are unreported by the news media.

Many B.C. municipalities are concerned about the increasing number of derailments. Belcarra Mayor Ralph Drew recently said the increase in derailments is worrisome, especially given the spike in shipments of oil by rail through B.C.’s mountainous regions. (Belcarra is part of Metro Vancouver.) Drew said he believes pipelines are safer than rail for transporting oil. “A derailment of oil tank cars in the Fraser Canyon would be catastrophic. It would move down the whole length; mind-boggling, actually. It makes a tanker spill at sea minor in comparison with the linear damage along the river, and it would ultimately end up in the Fraser River estuary, which is critical salmon rearing grounds”, he said.

See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for hundreds of additional examples of Canadian National Railway derailments across Canada and the U.S.

More Environmental Problems for Imperial Oil Ltd.

•April 23, 2014 • Comments Off on More Environmental Problems for Imperial Oil Ltd.

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo photo 2The federal government has recently said Imperial Oil must follow rules set out by the Sahtu Land and Water Board for clean-up of Imperial’s 70-year-old oil pumping operations in Norman Wells, N.W.T. (CBC News). The Sahtu Board wants to establish some rules and is demanding a security deposit for the eventual clean-up of the site. Imperial estimates another 10 years of production before they will abandon the site. Imperial Oil had challenged the Sahtu Board’s authority to issue clean-up rules. The clean-up of major abandoned oil and gas extraction, storage and processing sites is a long-standing problem in Canada, as taxpayers are often left footing the bill.

Imperial Oil also recently asked the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench to dismiss a lawsuit brought against it by Rick Bilozer who claims a whole list of environmental infractions by Imperial on his family’s century-old grain farm located between Calmar and Devon, Alberta (Edmonton Journal). Bilozer’s claims include: burial of contaminated materials that spread to groundwater and caused elevated levels of benzene, ethyl benzene, chloride, sodium, sulphates and hydrocarbons; a brush fire that spread off the lease site and set peat underneath the ground on fire for 10 years, causing the ground to cave in and form a swamp; and a number of spills on the Bilozer property including a 5,000-litre spill of oily emulsion in 1982.

Railroaded continues to follow Imperial Oil’s environmental practices since the company started storing 225 rail tank cars full of petroleum residue immediately adjacent to 2 homes and 2 wildlife conservation areas southeast of Edmonton.

Canadian National Railway Report on Coal Spill “Deficient”, “Unsatisfactory” – Update

•April 20, 2014 • Comments Off on Canadian National Railway Report on Coal Spill “Deficient”, “Unsatisfactory” – Update

Canadian National Railway reports submitted to the B.C. Environment Ministry on the impacts of a coal train derailment and spill January 11, 2014 in Burnaby were considered “deficient” and “unsatisfactory”, and required “more information regarding the incident”, according to Environment officials (The StraightBurnaby Now).

Seven rail cars carrying coal fell off the tracks and 3 of the cars tipped over, spilling their contents into the surrounding area, including into Silver Creek, Burnaby Lake and Brunette River. About 270 tons of coal were spilled, according to B.C. Environment. Local observers said Silver Creek turned black following the spill.

Railroaded chum salmon photoSilver Creek is sensitive fish spawning habitat. Chum salmon were observed spawning in the creek near where the coal was spilled. Other fish in the coal-spill area included coho salmon and rainbow trout. Government officials were also concerned about the impact of the spill on the endangered Western Painted Turtle. Turtles and their eggs had to be removed from the clean-up area, and a turtle beach had to be restored and basking logs cleaned. A 2005 study by the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Ltd.  found that coal spilled into aquatic environments had physical effects on organisms, including abrasion, smothering and clogging of respiratory and feeding organs.

The B.C. Environment Ministry response to CN’s reports went on to say assessments of the derailment and potential remediation measures required improvements. “These reports are deficient in addressing the conditions, environment, biota, and potential concerns in the impacted water bodies”,  read a government memo. “It is recommended that Triton Environmental (CN’s consultant) immediately undertake a more detailed assessment on the chemical characterization, environmental fate and environmental impact (short and long term) of the coal spill to Silver Creek and Burnaby Lake.” CN was asked to submit more detailed information on the amount of coal spilled, the amount of coal that was recovered, and the environmental fate of the coal that was not recovered. The memo continued, “The initial water quality sampling conducted was very limited and doesn’t address the extent of the impact.” The ministry also sought a detailed chronological report of all substantive actions taken to address the spill, and a delineation of potential impact areas.

CN and other rail companies in Canada take a very laissez-faire and cavalier approach to environmental impacts of their operations, in part because federal regulators seldom enforce federal environmental protection legislation and regulations when it comes to railway companies. Provincial regulators also have a relatively unsuccessful history of trying to enforce provincial environmental legislation with respect to railways.

Railroaded believes that railway companies should be held accountable for the environmental impacts of their operations. (See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for many other examples of CN derailments and spills.)

More Unreported Derailments in Canada – How Safe are Our Railroads?

•April 18, 2014 • Comments Off on More Unreported Derailments in Canada – How Safe are Our Railroads?

Railroaded derailment Lac Megantic pic 2The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada has recently discovered more than 100 rail incidents that were not reported by Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian National Railway and Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway (CBC News).

The TSB recently received a large number of records from CN Rail, dating back a number of years, including accidents or incidents that should have been reported to the TSB when they occurred. This is in addition to the over 1,800 derailments and other accidents that CN did not report over a 6-year period, as revealed by a CBC investigation several months ago.

The TSB also became concerned about CP Rail in early 2013 after discovering the company changed how it was reporting accidents. Based on a request by the TSB for more information, CP came back with another 150 occurrences that should have been reported when they took place. Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway, the company responsible for the July 2013 Lac-Megantic oil train disaster that killed 47 people, also failed to report accidents including a number of uncontrolled runaway trains.

A few weeks ago, University of Calgary economist Jennifer Winter called on the federal government to provide better public access to rail safety data in the wake of a string of fiery derailments and explosions in Canada and the U.S. involving crude oil and other dangerous goods. Winter said, “This rash of disasters has led the public and policy-makers to question how safe are Canadian railroads?…Accuracy of data is important because mis-measured data can give a false sense of the true state of rail safety in Canada.” A rail company has never been fined in Canada for failing to report derailments and other accidents.

The public is quickly losing confidence in Canadian railways because of their cavalier approach to reporting derailments and other accidents. See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for hundreds of additional examples. Transporting crude oil and other dangerous goods by rail will become even more hazardous as the volume of tank car traffic increases significantly over the coming months and years.

Canadian National Railway Hypocritical about Competition from the U.S.

•April 4, 2014 • Comments Off on Canadian National Railway Hypocritical about Competition from the U.S.

Railroaded rant imageIt’s mind-boggling lately to listen to Montreal-based Canadian National Railway CEO Claude Mongeau ranting and raving about the proposed new Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act. This is the legislation introduced last week by the federal government to level the playing field between Canada’s 2 rail giants, CN and CP, and Canadian grain farmers whose crops have been piling up at grain elevators because CN and CP have been making more money hauling crude oil, other petroleum products and other dangerous goods.

One of the many elements of the new legislation that upsets Mongeau has to do with extending interswitching limits. Under current legislation, a shipper who is served by only one railway is entitled to transfer its shipments to another railway at a regulated rate if the shipper’s facility is located within a 30-kilometre radius of where the 2 railways connect. The new legislation would extend that limit to 160 kilometres in an effort to increase competition and give shippers access to additional services from other rail companies. Mongeau has said, “This action could hit Canada’s railways by opening their business to unfair poaching by U.S. railways without any reciprocity. Besides causing financial harm to CN, it could drain traffic away from Canadian ports.” (Calgary Herald)

Wait a minute…is this really what the head of CN said? Isn’t CN characterized by the private sector and stock analysts as one of the shining examples of that good old private sector mantra that the “private sector always does it better than the public sector”? And isn’t “competition is good for the marketplace” part of that mantra? After all, it’s competition that helps ensure customers aren’t held hostage by private sector monopolies. For Mongeau to demonize competition from U.S. railways as “poaching”, appears hypocritical. And besides, why shouldn’t U.S.-based Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) have an opportunity to offer a competitive (and perhaps superior) service to some Canadian grain farmers and shippers, especially if that means Canadian grain makes it to market faster and grain farmers get a better price (Edmonton Journal)? Canadian National Railway certainly has done its fair share of moving into the U.S. rail market, including buying out or taking over Illinois Central Corporation; Wisconsin Central; Great Lakes Transportation LLC; and Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander”, isn’t it? It should be noted that many Americans are upset about these takeovers by CN because they claim that CN is not as good a corporate neighbour as the companies they took over.

To further add to the discussion and in case readers have forgotten, Canadian National Railway isn’t as Canadian as one might think. After Canadians spent billions of dollars (in taxes) building the public Canadian National Railway into the largest railway that successfully serviced shippers and passengers across our country, the federal Liberals sold CN Rail to American investors in 1995 for a paltry sum of about $2.2 billion. U.S. financial experts saw this sell off as “The Mother of All Deals” and a huge windfall for the private sector. It was characterized as a “gift” to foreign investors. What do you think now about Mongeau’s rants about that nasty U.S. rail industry potentially “poaching” business in Canada? (See this link for more information on the 1995 privatization of CN.)

Outdated DOT-111 Rail Tank Cars Need to be Replaced Faster

•April 2, 2014 • Comments Off on Outdated DOT-111 Rail Tank Cars Need to be Replaced Faster

Railroaded derailment Lac Megantic pic 1In the aftermath of numerous recent oil train derailments, including the worst last July in Lac-Megantic that killed 47 people, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada renewed its call yesterday for the speedy phase-out of older DOT-111 tank cars that have been known for decades to puncture easily and spill their hazardous products during derailments and collisions. TSB Chair Wendy Tadros told a House of Commons committee “A long and gradual phase-out of older-model cars simply isn’t good enough”, particularly considering the skyrocketing number of tank cars carrying crude oil and other dangerous petroleum products. Tadros also said the Lac-Megantic tragedy has led to an “erosion of public trust” in rail safety.

The U.S. Railway Supply Institute, which represents tank car owners and lessors, had estimated a few months ago that it could take 10 years to modify the older tank cars, but more recently suggested the highest-risk cars could be modified in less time. Quebec-based Canadian National Railway has recently said it will take 4 years before it stops using its small fleet of outdated DOT-111s that it owns and leases. Canadian Pacific Railway said it was finalizing a plan to retrofit its small fleet of older tank cars. The vast majority of the 228,000 older DOT-111s still running on the tracks in Canada and the U.S. are owned by energy companies and other shippers of hazardous goods. At least 70% of the tank cars on North American tracks are the older-model DOT-111s.

Although new tank cars that are manufactured must meet new safety standards, the fact that the vast majority of tank cars rolling through our towns and cities are outdated DOT-111s, the kind that ruptured, exploded and caught fire in Lac-Megantic last year, worries municipalities and anyone who lives near railway tracks. Windsor, Ontario Councillor Warren Cosford was recently quoted saying, “We have oil tanker cars that are not designed to carry petroleum, and they’re rolling past my house.” Anywhere from 80 to 120 oil tank cars move through Windsor every day. Many other cities and towns in North America have similar fears.

Rail safety regulators in Canada and the U.S. are being criticized for not seriously addressing the tank car safety issue fast enough, especially since recommendations have been made for over 2 decades to make improvements. How many more disasters like the one in Lac-Megantic will it take before the DOT-111 bomb train cars are replaced or retrofitted? If left to industry, it will take many years before there are major improvements, because replacing or retrofitting the older cars will affect the bottom line for too many companies.

Canada Transport Minister Lisa Raitt has 90 days to respond to the latest recommendations from the TSB. Sources for this story include: CBC NewsReutersEdmonton JournalCalgary Sun.

Increase in Rail Accidents, Fatalities and Spills Over Previous Year

•March 29, 2014 • Comments Off on Increase in Rail Accidents, Fatalities and Spills Over Previous Year

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada released 2013 transportation safety statistics on March 26, which show a 53% increase in rail-related fatalities over the previous year and a 67% higher number of deaths than the 5-year average. There were 127 rail-related fatalities in 2013, 83 in 2012 and the 5-year average is 76.

Railroaded petroleum derailment fire image july 6 2013 Nat GeoA total of 1,067 rail accidents were reported to the TSB in 2013, up 4% from 1,027 reported in 2012.

Reported rail accidents (derailments and collisions) involving dangerous goods also increased from 119 in 2012 to 144 in 2013, an increase of 21%. Of those accidents, 7 resulted in the spilling or release of dangerous goods, up 250% from 2012 and 133% higher than the 5-year average.

Of the 218 railway incidents reported in 2013, dangerous goods spilled or leaked 94 times, 24% higher than the 5-year average of 76. (Rail “incidents” do not involve derailments or collisions.)

It is important to note that many railway accidents and incidents are intentionally not reported to the TSB. For example, a recent CBC investigation found that Canadian National Railway did not report 1,843 derailments and other accidents to the TSB over a 6-year period. A former TSB Director has questioned whether CN is properly reporting all accidents today. It has been suggested there are incentives at CN to under-report derailments and other accidents. See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for hundreds of additional examples of railway accidents.

CEO Doesn’t Want Government to Mess with Canadian National Railway’s Monopoly

•March 29, 2014 • Comments Off on CEO Doesn’t Want Government to Mess with Canadian National Railway’s Monopoly

The Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act tabled March 26 by the federal government has stirred a growing debate about the rail transport monopolies in Canada, held by Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway (Edmonton JournalCalgary Herald). The legislation has been introduced in an attempt to help level the playing field between Canadian grain farmers and the 2 rail giants which have been accused of letting grain pile up at elevators across the prairies while hauling more lucrative oil and other dangerous goods shipments.

Transport of a bumper grain crop has been backlogged for months and has seen farmers lose between $2 billion and $3.5 billion in sales so far. As a result, grain farmers lobbied the federal and provincial governments to help address this backlog to prevent further damage to Canada’s agricultural economy. Earlier in March, Transport Canada issued an emergency directive to railways giving them 4 weeks to double their grain shipments to a combined target of 1 million metric tonnes/week or face fines of up to $100,000 per day. The new act extends that directive to August 3, 2014, gives the federal government the power in the future to set minimum grain transport volume requirements, and lets a shipper who is served by only 1 rail company switch its traffic to another railway at a regulated rate under certain conditions.

Some farm groups and provincial governments, including the Alberta government and the Alberta Federation of Agriculture, have applauded the new federal legislation; while others, such as the Saskatchewan government, Alberta Barley and Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, don’t think the legislation goes far enough. The Saskatchewan government thinks that the penalty payments should be higher and should go to farmers rather than federal coffers, and that minimum volume numbers should be boosted.

Railroaded CN logo oldMontreal-based CN CEO Claude Mongeau has lashed out at the federal government, calling the legislation unfair and heavy-handed. He has suggested the bill could undermine rail viability and accused the government of unfairly penalizing railways to satisfy the demands of the vocal farming constituency. Several farming group leaders said Mongeau’s comments prove that we need more competition in Canada’s rail industry.

Mongeau is well known for his hyperbolic language whenever he defends the commercial marketplace and CN’s profitability. The fact is, CN’s actions have hurt an important sector of Canada’s economy. Mongeau made similarly exaggerative comments in response to the federal government’s Fair Rail Freight Service Act which was passed last June to level the playing field between freight shippers and the 2 rail giants because rail service had been deteriorating over the years as CN and CP cut operating costs to boost their bottom lines. In short, CN’s and CP’s profits were increasing, while customer service was decreasing, and unfortunately shippers were at the mercy of the 2 rail companies.

Study on Railway Diesel Emissions and Coal Train Air Quality

•March 26, 2014 • Comments Off on Study on Railway Diesel Emissions and Coal Train Air Quality

Railroaded diesel exhaust photoRail and Reason recently reported on a University of Washington study that confirms people who live close to rail lines are exposed to increased levels of harmful microscopic particles from carcinogenic locomotive diesel emissions and to increased inhalation of larger particles of harmful coal dust from passing coal trains. The full story at Rail and Reason’s website is definitely worth reading.

Rail and Reason’s article concludes with the following questions: “What impacts are diesel emissions from railways having on people breathing the air around it? What’s the impact of rail-transported coal on health and the environment? And how does the mixture of both fine particulate matter from diesel emissions and larger particulate matter from coal dust from trains affect communities overall?”

Federal Government Shares Blame for Lac-Megantic Rail Disaster

•March 18, 2014 • Comments Off on Federal Government Shares Blame for Lac-Megantic Rail Disaster

Although it was Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MM&A) Railway that received most of the public attention following the derailment last July in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, the Canadian federal government shares the blame for the death of 47 people, the spilling of at least 5.5 million litres of crude oil, destruction of much of downtown Lac-Megantic, and significant damages to the local environment.

Under intense lobbying and pressure from the rail industry in Canada, primarily Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway, the federal government has been Railroaded monopoly photoderegulating rail safety for several decades. This is particularly the case since CN was privatized in 1995. CN and CP have argued that the private rail industry, operating within the commercial market framework, is in the best position to manage safety on the tracks. The fact is, while CN, CP and other rail company profits have been skyrocketing and shareholders have been laughing all the way to the bank, safety corners have been cut significantly in order to enhance the bottom line. Transport Canada has all but relinquished its legislative regulatory responsibilities for rail safety to the rail companies. Rail companies have been left to inspect their own trains and tracks and monitor their own safety procedures. As Railroaded has written earlier, that’s like letting the fox guard the hen house.

Railroaded fox guarding hen house 2 imageIn 2011, the Auditor General said, “Transport Canada has not designed and implemented the management practices needed to effectively monitor regulatory compliance” of dangerous goods transport. The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada has repeatedly recommended dozens of improvements and changes required to address the many derailments and other accidents investigated by the TSB; however, the rail industry and Transport Canada have consistently ignored these recommendations and warnings – at worst, or have relegated them to exhaustive review – at best.

Recently, wsws.org wrote, “The Quebec tragedy has given rise to a series of investigations and class-action law suits in Canada that have further revealed the consistent privileging of corporate profits over basic safety precautions by various governments and regulatory bodies. A CBC report last month revealed how freight carriers had asked the Canadian federal government to remove the requirement to inspect railcars carrying dangerous goods just one month before the horrific events at Lac-Megantic. Although the rail companies quickly withdrew their request in the wake of the tragedy, it has been revealed that for years the government has secretly granted them special exemptions from safety regulations.”

Railroaded Transport Canada logo imageSurvivors of the Lac-Megantic disaster have alleged, in a class-action lawsuit filed against the federal government, that Transport Canada: was aware of 129 accidents involving MM&A rolling stock, knew that MM&A was the most-unsafe railway operator in North America, failed to prevent MM&A from shipping dangerous goods despite knowledge of the company’s deplorable track conditions, permitted the use of a single train operator despite red flags around this procedure, was aware of previous instances where insufficient braking had been practiced on MM&A trains, and failed to ensure MM&A carried adequate accident insurance.

Railroaded lapdog image manSarnia, Ontario Mayor Mike Bradley recently told reporters the persistent cost-cutting and risk-taking were part of a strategy to increase shareholder profits at the expense of safety. “These railcars are rolling through the hearts of communities right across the country and the level of anxiety is very high. Transport Canada needs to become the watchdog, not the lapdog of the rail industry. My own observation from over the years is there’s almost an incestuous relationship between the industry, Transport Canada and the government of the day.” Railroaded certainly agrees with this assessment, based on our personal experiences dealing with CN, Transport Canada and federal Conservative MPs and Cabinet Ministers, where we have been unsuccessful in resolving safety issues surrounding the building of a rail yard by Cando Contracting Ltd., CN and Imperial Oil to store tank cars full of petroleum residue right next to homes and wildlife conservation areas.

CN Worker Dead Following Derailment

•March 17, 2014 • Comments Off on CN Worker Dead Following Derailment

A Canadian National Railway worker died yesterday in Montreal when he was crushed between 2 railway cars (Montreal Gazette). The worker was on a train that was backing up when one of the cars derailed, and somehow he got caught between 2 cars. The accident occurred at the Taschereau Yards in Saint-Laurent.

See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for hundreds of additional examples of CN derailments and other accidents.

Railways Insist Hazardous Material Lists be Kept Secret

•March 16, 2014 • Comments Off on Railways Insist Hazardous Material Lists be Kept Secret

Railroaded secret keep a photoIn November last year, in response to intense pressure from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), Transport Canada issued a directive requiring the major railways, Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway, to share lists with municipalities about the nature and volume of hazardous goods they are transporting through respective communities. Unfortunately, the information is to be provided in only yearly aggregate form for the previous year, presented by quarter. Such yearly aggregate information, one year old, is not particularly helpful to first responders who require “real-time” information in order to instantly know what dangerous goods are being transported through their communities in the event of a derailment or other accident.

Rail companies have threatened municipalities saying they will cease providing the hazardous goods lists if municipalities share this information with anyone else, including the media. This begs the question, “Why are rail companies so secretive about letting the public know what is moving through our communities?”

Railroaded hazardous materials sign imageCN spokesman, Jim Feeny said the hazardous goods information can’t be shared with the public “due to security concerns”. On the other hand, the Chair of the FCM’s railway safety working group, Doug Reycraft, said, “Whenever there’s any discussion with [railways] about sharing information, they seemed concerned about it getting into the hands of their competitors and undermining their position.” As Yahoo News wrote, ‘That’s not the same thing as playing the terrorism card, which CN’s Feeny implicitly did.”

The St. Albert Gazette contacted multiple sources in January in an attempt to find out what dangerous goods are passing through St. Albert, Alberta. CN declined to answer. CN Rail’s Warren Chandler told the Gazette dangerous goods information for St. Albert trains was not available. He said, “I do not have that information readily available…CN can move any commodity at anytime on our network in response to customer demand.” When Transport Canada was contacted by the Gazette, Brian Williams said anyone wanting to know the exact number of trains, and what’s on them, will have to get that information from CN Rail.

Railroaded poison sign imageIs it any wonder Canadians are concerned about rail safety and what’s being transported through our communities and along our rivers and lakes? Transport Canada says rail companies have that information, yet only requires the companies to provide municipalities with the aggregate information that is one year old – which is really not very helpful. Rail companies like CN say they can haul whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want. As Toronto City Councillor Josh Matlow was recently quoted saying, “I think the public has a right to make informed decisions about their own safety, and about the neighbourhoods in which they live.” Ajax, Ontario Mayor Steve Parish recently said, “I would hope that CN would see that obligation as well. Certainly, the public has a right to that information, and they have a right to know that their public officials are making plans for emergency preparedness on the basis of good data and knowledge.”

Railroaded flammable materials sign imageThe strict confidentiality of hazardous material lists leaves municipalities and the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who live and work next to railroad tracks wondering about their safety. It’s about time the federal government – specifically Transport Canada – exercises its legislative responsibilities for the rail industry, including rail safety. Much of the railway legislation and regulations in Canada have not changed significantly since they were first drafted and passed in the 1800s, and they are long overdue to be updated in order to protect the public and the environment, particularly considering the devastating impacts of derailments and associated spills, explosions and fires. These changes should include forcing rail companies to share real-time information on what hazardous goods they are transporting through our towns and cities. (About the only dangerous goods information that is public is that at least 12% of all rail cargo hauled in Canada is hazardous, according to the Railway Association of Canada – CN’s Feeny says only 10%.)

This story is based on multiple sources including: Toronto StarYahoo News, Waterloo Chronicle, St. Albert Gazette, CBC News.

Federal Government Orders CN and CP to Move More Grain or Get Fined

•March 8, 2014 • Comments Off on Federal Government Orders CN and CP to Move More Grain or Get Fined

Railroaded grain elevator imageIn response to mounting pressure and criticism from grain farmers and provincial agriculture ministers, Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced an Order-in-Council yesterday that orders Canadian Pacific Railway and Montreal-based Canadian National Railway to double the current volume of grain being moved by rail to at least 500,000 tonnes each week in order to unplug what’s been called the worst grain backlog in Canadian history. If the rail companies don’t comply, they would face fines of up to $100,000 per day (Edmonton JournalHuff Post BusinessStar Phoenix4-Traders). The OC took effect yesterday, and CN and CP have 4 weeks to ramp up shipments to meet the new volume requirement. The federal government also committed to introduce grain-handling legislation when Parliament resumes that will help ensure agricultural products get to market.

RETA dollar sign image (smaller)There is currently about a 61,000-car shortfall of outstanding orders for rail cars that have not been filled with grain. And, there are 43 vessels sitting idly waiting off the West Coast of B.C. for grain to arrive, plus Canada’s grain elevator system is at 95% capacity. Farmers have already lost an estimated $3.5 billion in grain sales. As Canada’s Agriculture Minister said almost 2 weeks ago, railways are the “weak link” in the supply chain.

Alberta Federation of Agriculture president Lynn Jacobson, said the federal order “will certainly help”, but he’s worried it might not be enough to open the bottleneck which has left bumper crops sitting in bins across the Prairies. Wade Sobkowich, the executive director of the Western Grain Elevator Association, called the order good news and praised the government for taking a positive and strong approach to a serious problem. Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Minister said, “What’s been lacking is the will to do it and certainly the penalties that are put in place will be very strong encouragement to them (railways) to improve their service.” Alberta’s Agriculture Minister said, “This is a really good start.” Dan Mazier, VP of Keystone Agricultural Producers, said, “Obviously, the government heard us. This is great news from a farmer’s perspective.” Others were not impressed, like Liberal MP Ralph Goodale, who called the order “far too little and it’s far too late.”

The federal government said Friday’s order was necessary “…to preserve the integrity of Canada’s transportation system and our reputation as a global player.” The federal Agriculture Minister said farmers had become increasingly frustrated by the “poor performance of railways”, which had been criticized for hauling more lucrative petroleum loads at the expense of grain loads. He said, “The railways have dropped the ball. This situation is not acceptable.” Greg Cherewyk of Pulse Canada said, rail companies have taken grain farmers for granted because they have no other choice to get their product to market.

CN and CP said they would comply with the federal order, but lashed out at the federal government for issuing the order and for indicating legislation would follow. CN CEO Claude Mongeau suggested the new legislation is ill-advised and counter-productive. He threatened that more regulation would lead to adversarial relationships within the supply chain, at a time when collaboration is essential. CP CEO Hunter Harrison (previously CN’s CEO) said adding more cars to the rail system is the wrong thing to do. CP took out full-page ads in the Globe and Mail and National Post on Thursday, in an attempt to defend CP’s handling of the grain backlog. Both CN and CP tried to partially blame the cold weather this winter for the backlog.

Railroaded monopoly photoMany times, both Mongeau and Harrison have fought any intervention by the federal government in Canada’s rail service. They consistently have argued that the commercial framework should be left to operate on its own. On the other hand, shippers and many railroad pundits have argued that CN’s and CP’s monopoly over rail service in Canada has hurt different sectors of the national economy, while the 2 private railway companies pocket huge profits. A little over a year ago, Mongeau complained when the new Fair Rail Freight Service Act was being debated, arguing the act would stifle positive business dealings; however, shippers had been complaining about poor shipping services and pleading for the legislation to help ensure CN and CP would live up to their hauling commitments. Many have argued that CN’s rail service has declined ever since CN was privatized in 1995, where CN now holds all the cards and shippers are at their mercy.

U.S. Senate Conducts Hearing on Rail Safety

•March 7, 2014 • Comments Off on U.S. Senate Conducts Hearing on Rail Safety

Senators, attending a U.S. Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing yesterday, complained  that government regulators are taking too long to write and pass new rail safety rules in response to the rash of oil train derailments, spills, explosions and fires (International Business TimesKSTP). They also complained railroads are taking too long to implement safety improvements Congress ordered under laws passed 7 years ago.

The hearing is particularly important because, at the same time, broader debates are occurring over the safety of transporting oil by rail versus pipelines. President Obama is scheduled to make a decision in the very near future about whether or not to build the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline to bring Canadian crude to the Gulf Coast for refining. Pipeline proponents, most safety experts and several studies agree that it would be safer and cleaner to ship crude oil by pipeline rather than by trains. As evident by the increasing numbers of main line and non-main line derailments and other accidents, the current deteriorating rail infrastructure can simply not accommodate the increasing numbers of oil trains and freight trains hauling other commodities. Pipeline proponents argue it would require 1,185 rail tank cars a day to ship as much oil as can be moved daily by the Keystone XL Pipeline. That kind of increase would exacerbate the poor state of existing rail infrastructure which was never built to handle the much longer and heavier trains that rail companies assemble today.

Railroaded Keystone XL Pipeline benefits image

The Senate subcommittee heard from the National Transportation Safety Board which has called the DOT-111 tank cars an “unacceptable safety risk” and has recommended their replacement or retrofitting since 1991. The Association of American Railroads told the subcommittee railroads agree new safety standards are needed. Meanwhile, not surprisingly, the American Petroleum Institute suggested safety standards do not need to be toughened beyond the voluntary industry standards (they do not want to affect their bottom line). Both the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and Federal Railroad Administration gave excuses to the subcommittee why new standards haven’t been drafted or passed yet.

For more information on the risks associated with shipping oil by rail, see this link.

Excessively Long and Heavy Trains Opposed by Railroad Workers’ Group

•March 5, 2014 • Comments Off on Excessively Long and Heavy Trains Opposed by Railroad Workers’ Group

Railroaded RWU logo“Railroad Workers United (RWU) has embarked upon a campaign to limit the length and tonnage of freight trains across North America. The goal is to reverse the long running trend whereby the rail carriers assemble ever longer and heavier trains which are dangerous to railroad workers, pedestrians and motorists, trackside communities, the environment, and society in general.” This is what a recent news release says, issued by Railroad Workers United.

RWU goes on to say, in spite of the number of long and heavy train wrecks last year, rail carriers continue to operate long and heavy trains and in fact even expand upon this trend, in attempts to improve the bottom line. The organization points out it takes longer to stop such trains, and the longer and heavier the train, the greater the potential for a train break-in-two, emergency brake applications and derailments. Longer and heavier trains result in more severe train wrecks if and when such trains derail, long trains are more likely to have air brake problems, and it’s more difficult for train crews to safely run, inspect, work and test such trains.  Road and pedestrian crossings are more likely to be blocked by longer and heavier trains, causing inconvenience and increased emergency services response times. Such trains also tend to increase the number of hours train crews must spend getting the trains in and out of the terminal and over the road, all of which increase crew fatigue, reduce situational awareness, and lower quality of work and home life for engineers and trainmen.

The news release concludes, “Therefore, RWU opposes any expansion of the current length and tonnage of existing trains. Furthermore, we support a reduction in the length and tonnage of already existing trains, especially those hauling hazardous materials, traversing steep grades and/or operating in very cold temperatures. We expect that these goals can be achieved through both legislative efforts and at the bargaining table.”

RWU is an organization that works to unite railroad workers from all the rail crafts in North America. To quote from their website, “…we have formed this inter-union, cross-craft, solidarity “caucus” of railroad workers from all crafts, all carriers, and all unions across North America.” The RWU works to strengthen the bargaining position of railroad workers and to enhance working conditions, including the safety of railroad workers and the public. More information is available on the RWU website.

Railroaded believes no one is more aware of rail safety hazards, nor is more qualified to suggest improvements, than those who work on the railroads. Hopefully, rail companies at the corporate level will heed the suggestions of experienced railroad workers, as represented by Railroad Workers United. 

Grain Sale Losses Skyrocket as Rail Backlogs Continue

•March 5, 2014 • Comments Off on Grain Sale Losses Skyrocket as Rail Backlogs Continue

Railroaded grain elevator imageRETA dollar sign image (smaller)A backlog of grain rail car orders in Canada tops 60,000, 8 times more than a year ago, causing an estimated $3.5 billion in lost sales to date (Edmonton Journal). Many farmers are blaming Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway for favouring the more lucrative transport of crude oil and other dangerous goods over hauling grain (see this link).

The backlog has resulted in reduced grain prices and increased transport costs. The Executive Director of the Western Grain Elevator Association said, “This is the highest backlog ever.” Many farmers aren’t even able to move their crops to nearby grain elevators because they’re full. One Manitoba farmer hasn’t been able to sell any of his bumper wheat, canola, barley or oat crops, and the delay means $200,000 in lost revenue, as grain prices plummeted.

Prairie farmers had record harvests in 2013 of wheat, canola and corn, and increases from multiple crops, but the rail backlog has quickly turned the good news into bad news. Provincial and federal politicians are angry and have demanded the problem get fixed, including penalizing CN and CP for breaking their grain hauling commitments.

U.S. Railroads Agree to Transport Oil More Safely

•March 4, 2014 • Comments Off on U.S. Railroads Agree to Transport Oil More Safely

Railroaded Association of American Railroads logoRailroaded US Dept Transportation logoAs pressure mounts from municipalities, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), state politicians, rail safety experts and rail workers to improve rail safety, an agreement has recently been reached between the U.S. Transportation Department and the Association of American Railroads on a number of voluntary safety measures (Edmonton Journal).

The new agreement will see railroads slow down oil trains from 80kph to 64kph through major cities, inspect tracks more often, and improve emergency response planning along routes carrying trains that haul up to 11.4 million litres of crude oil each. Railroads in the U.S. would also have to weigh the risks along particular routes and consider alternatives, although it’s inevitable trains would continue going through large population centres in many cases. As well, railroads agreed to provide $5 million US to develop a training curriculum for emergency responders focused on crude accidents.

The new agreement does not address concerns over shipping ethanol, which has also been involved in a spate of rail accidents, nor does it address the tens of thousands of flawed DOT-111 tank cars that continue to haul crude oil and ethanol. The DOT-111 model tank car has been known for decades to puncture easily during derailments and other accidents.

The advantage of the new agreement on voluntary safety measures is that railroads can now act more quickly, rather than wait for the U.S. federal government to draft and pass new safety legislation. A former NTSB director said it’s a positive step, but regulators will have little leverage to enforce the railroads’ commitments, and there’s really nothing to say that the railroads would have to continue following the new guidelines.

See this link for additional information on the risks of shipping oil and other dangerous goods by rail.

Poll: Pipelines Safer than Rail for Shipping Crude Oil

•March 3, 2014 • Comments Off on Poll: Pipelines Safer than Rail for Shipping Crude Oil

Railroaded derailment Lac Megantic pic 1An Ipsos Reid poll conducted in late January of this year for CTV News found 69% of Canadians believe pipelines are the best way to ship oil, while only 18% prefer rail. 54% of those polled have no faith in the safety of shipping flammable materials by rail (CTV News).

An overwhelming majority of 90% agree the federal government, which has overall legislative responsibility for rail transport, should conduct a formal review of Canada’s policies around transporting crude oil by rail. 30% of those polled say the rail safety problem has to do with a lack of oversight, regulation and inspection by the government; while 24% blame the rail companies; 19% say the companies that own the tanker cars are to blame; and 14% blame the railway engineers, crew and human error.

See this link and many posts under “Latest News” on this website for more information on the risks of shipping oil by rail.

Is There Meaningful Progress in Improving Rail Tank Car Safety?

•March 2, 2014 • Comments Off on Is There Meaningful Progress in Improving Rail Tank Car Safety?

Railroaded no exploding oil trains imageRail companies and some shippers appear to be finally taking concrete steps to improve the safety of rail tank cars, under tremendous pressure from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, some provincial and state politicians, Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada, U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), rail safety experts, environmental groups, the general public, and even some tank car manufacturing companies, who consistently have been demanding action now rather than later. It appears that the recent spate of derailments of oil and other dangerous products, including spills, explosions, fires, loss of many lives, significant environmental damage and destruction of property has forced those in charge to finally wake up.

Feeling the brunt of the mounting rail safety criticisms, Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway have recently added surcharges on customers who ship crude oil in the older model DOT-111 tank cars which have been known for decades to puncture easily during derailments. The move is expected to induce shippers to upgrade to newer tank car models. Burlington North Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway has recently invited bids from manufacturers for 5,000 new tank cars made to new specifications that aim to make them safer than the voluntarily upgraded tank cars that the NTSB suggests are not safe enough. A number of oil companies and refiners, including Irving Oil Limited, Tesoro Corp. and PBF Energy Inc., have recently taken initiatives to voluntarily phase out the DOT-111 cars, rather than wait for the Canadian and U.S. governments to pass legislation and regulations.

The NTSB and TSB have issued many recommendations over the past 2 decades about improving the safety of the flimsy DOT-111 tank cars. Unfortunately, neither of these Railroaded safety first imageagencies has the power to implement any of their recommendations. And, the Canadian and U.S. federal government regulators – Transport Canada and U.S. Department of Transportation – have not responded in any meaningful ways to these continuous warnings. It may take years, according to some rail safety experts, for the 2 federal governments to pass legislation and regulations to force rail companies and shippers to seriously address tank car safety. The most the Transport Canada Minister appears to be able to say is, “the health and safety of Canadians remains our priority”, while the U.S. Department of Transportation said in a statement that safety was its top priority and that it was already acting on NTSB recommendations (which others argue it is not).

At the same time that some rail companies and a few oil companies and refiners are voluntarily moving forward to phase out the DOT-111 cars, it appears the majority of the oil Railroaded CAPP logoindustry is balking at the proposed improvements to tank car safety. For example, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), which is a lobby group for oil and gas companies, favours what they call “practical” steps to improve rail tank car safety, and “looks to governments to ensure the implementation of safety standards interrupts service as little as possible and that transporting our products by rail remains a competitive transportation option.” Calgary-based Cenovus Energy considers new RETA dollar sign image (smaller)safety regulations as a risk factor and said additional rail safety rules “could adversely affect our ability to ship crude oil by rail or the economics associated with rail transportation.” So, while rail companies and a few oil companies and refiners are finally willing to address tank car safety, the majority of the petroleum industry (at least in Canada), is clearly more concerned about the bottom line than the safety of people and the environment.

The attitude of the petroleum industry, save the few companies who appear serious about improving rail safety, is worrisome. If the only reason that transporting crude oil by rail has been economical to date is because serious – and expensive – safety issues have not been properly addressed, perhaps crude oil should not be transported by rail. What are human lives and a healthy environment worth in dollars and cents?

Rail safety experts continue to argue that Canada and U.S. federal regulators must pass legislation and regulations as soon as possible to ensure that voluntary measures taken by rail companies and a few oil companies and refiners, today, are not watered down in the future, under pressure from shareholders as the costs of improving rail tank car safety are added to the ledger.

Sources for this story include: Edmonton JournalGlobal PostThe Suburban NewspaperReuters 1Tribtown, RighandsReuters 2Prairie BusinessCBC NewsBloomberg News). See this link for more information on the risks of transporting  oil and other dangerous goods by rail.

Railways Make More Money Shipping Crude Oil than Grain

•February 28, 2014 • Comments Off on Railways Make More Money Shipping Crude Oil than Grain

Railroaded Ed Jour cartoon feb 28 2014

Spate of Canadian National Railway Derailments

•February 25, 2014 • Comments Off on Spate of Canadian National Railway Derailments

Railroaded CN loco on car imageSince our last report on Canadian National Railway derailments, there have been many more; following are just a few of them:

Feb 24, 2014. Fairbanks, St. Louis County, Minnesota. 50 CN cars plus 2 locomotives derailed. The train was loaded with iron ore pellets and was bound for Two Harbors. 2 engineers on the train were taken to a local hospital. (Duluth News Tribune)

Feb 23, 2014. Saint-Henri, Montreal, Quebec. 2 CN locomotives and 2 cars carrying grain fell off the rails on a CN main line close to homes, community organizations and schools. About 3,500 litres of diesel fuel spilled from one of the locomotives and caused an undisclosed amount of environmental damage. (Global NewsGlobe and Mail)

Feb 9, 2014. New Lenox, Illinois. 3 to 4 CN cars derailed near Lincoln-Way High School and one of the cars hit and damaged a locomotive that was stopped on an adjacent track. One of the derailed cars was carrying plastic; the others were apparently empty. Motorist traffic was blocked and had to be rerouted. This particular area is contentious among New Lenox residents because when CN bought the former EJ&E tracks, they announced plans to quadruple the number of freight trains. Local officials tried to get CN to build an overpass at one of the major crossings to mitigate the additional train traffic, but CN refused. (CBS Chicago)

Jan 31, 2014. Outside New Augusta, Mississippi. 19 CN cars fell off the tracks, spilling 50,000 gallons of crude oil, 17,000 gallons of fertilizer and 10,000 gallons of petroleum distillate. Other hazardous goods reported spilled included undisclosed volumes of fuel oil, methanol and ethanol. Most of the hazardous goods spilled from 3 of the derailed tank cars, although other derailed cars were also spilling hazardous products. About 50 nearby Perry County residents were evacuated for over 2 days and sheltered in a special Red Cross facility set up for those affected by the derailment. About 100 railroad employees and 50 government officials, firemen and police officers were on site assisting with clean up efforts which were estimated to take about a week to complete. The extent of environmental damage was not disclosed. (The RepublicHattiesburg American 1Hattiesburg American 2)

Jan 28, 2014. Mundelein, Illinois. A CN freight train derailed and forced Metra commuters on the North Central Services to make other transportation plans for at least a day. The cold hampered CN from repairing the tracks and moving the derailed cars, one of which was carrying plastic pellets. Several other CN freight trains were halted on the single track and had to be moved before the Metra service could be restored. (Daily Herald)

Jan 26, 2014. Saint-Basile, Edmundston, New Brunswick. 5 CN freight cars jumped the tracks; 3 were carrying automobiles, one was carrying clay and the 5th car was carrying flammable propane. The cars tipped over and were lying on their side in a ditch. A local farmer had warned CN last summer that repairs were required at the site of the derailment. (CBC News 1CBC News 2)

See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for hundreds of additional examples of CN derailments. The escalating number of CN derailments and spills on main and non-main lines, plus those incurred by companies other than CN, are strong indications that the rail industry is currently not in a position to safely transport dangerous and hazardous products in North America. Significant changes are required to improve rail safety.

CN and CP Railway Tell Edmonton to Mind Its Own Business

•February 25, 2014 • Comments Off on CN and CP Railway Tell Edmonton to Mind Its Own Business

Railroaded railway crossing photo 3CN and CP politely told Edmonton city officials to mind their own business when city officials raised concerns last year about the inordinately long traffic waits at many railway crossings in Edmonton. City officials had asked if the two rail giants could modify their operations during rush hour to reduce long traffic waits. Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway officials said nothing could be done, and that their operations have no accountability to municipal governments (Edmonton JournalCBC News).

The City has been receiving many complaints from irate motorists who repeatedly get stuck at railway crossings, especially during rush hour. Mayor Don Iveson recently said he personally receives complaints from drivers who face long waits at crossings in southeast Edmonton. “For a long time, the railways have been closer to God than anything else in Canada. The federal government has given them wide latitude,” he said. “That made sense in the 19th century and early 20th century, but with major rail operations in busy urban centres I think peaceful coexistence is worth pursuing…The railways enjoy a privileged position…We need to work with the MPs, the government of Canada. We need something consistent across Canada.”

See this link for more information on long waits at railway crossings across Canada and the United States. Railway companies do indeed enjoy a very privileged position where they can essentially delay hundreds of thousands of North Americans for long periods daily, thereby negatively affecting productivity and causing significant increases in vehicle exhaust pollution.

 

CN and CP Bottlenecks Hurting Grain Farmers

•February 25, 2014 • Comments Off on CN and CP Bottlenecks Hurting Grain Farmers

Railroaded grain elevator imageRETA dollar sign image (smaller)Competition by the oil industry for railway track space is causing a major backlog in grain shipments by CN and CP. That’s what grain farmers across Canada are saying as they see their bumper crops piling up at grain elevators because CN and CP can make more money hauling crude oil and other dangerous goods. This bottleneck is triggering a drop in grain prices. Shipping vessels are leaving ports empty, waiting in vain for grain shipments that aren’t arriving by rail. Grain companies are charged up to $18,000/ship in penalties for every day a ship has to sit and wait for trains to bring the grain.

Railroaded grain combining photoLast year, grain farmers saw a 33% increase in crop yield above 2012 levels, but CN and CP aren’t responding with an adequate number of grain cars. Farmers are calling the rail service abysmal. Even when railways do fill elevator orders, only 27% of the cars are delivered on time, and railways are leaving their cars at elevators up to 11 days. Alberta’s Agriculture Minister says railway companies that fail to meet their grain-shipping commitments should pay financial penalties. The federal Agriculture Minister says the existing grain transport system is broken, calling railways the “weak link” in the supply chain. He is considering all options to fix the problem including legislation to force CN and CP to fulfill their commitments to grain farmers. Currently, the railways call almost all of the shots and aren’t penalized for breaking their grain-hauling commitments.

Railroaded grain elevator photo 4Railroaded monopoly photoThe federal government and the grain industry have agreed to co-fund a study of grain backlogs in an attempt to improve the situation. Unfortunately, the rail industry is not providing any funding to the study, inspite of CN and CP causing the problem in the first place. Once again, the rail transport monopolies held by CN and CP in Canada are hurting a major sector of our economy; however, at the same time stock prices for both rail giants continue to climb. Sources for this story include: CBC NewsEdmonton Journal 1Edmonton Journal 2Edmonton Journal 3Edmonton Journal 4.

Flimsy Rail Tank Cars Need Replacing or Upgrading

•January 19, 2014 • Comments Off on Flimsy Rail Tank Cars Need Replacing or Upgrading

Following a rash of oil train derailments, safety experts are calling for the older model DOT-111 tank car to be replaced or significantly upgraded (Edmonton JournalVancouver Sun).

Railroaded derailment Lac Megantic pic 1The majority of tank cars hauling oil and other dangerous goods across North America are the older model DOT-111. It is this older model that has been involved in almost all of the recent derailment-associated oil spills, explosions and fires. About 80,000 sub-standard DOT-111 tank cars still carry flammable liquids on tracks in North America. The older model cars carry about 70% of hazardous goods shipped in Canada.  The older DOT-111 does not comply with current standards, and has been known for 2 decades to puncture easily when derailed.

New rail safety regulations developed in response to the Lac-Megantic  oil train disaster last July will require new tank cars to have thicker shells and top-fitting protection to match regulations already in place in the U.S. Although this is a good step forward by Transport Canada, these new and much safer standards will unfortunately only apply to new tank cars – not to the tens of thousands of older model DOT-111 cars already on our tracks. Under pressure from the rail industry, the Canadian and U.S. federal governments have been reluctant to address the older flimsy DOT-111s because of costs and logistics of refurbishing them – they could not be used to haul goods while they were being upgraded, which would affect rail companies’ bottom line.

Railroaded derailment Lac Megantic pic 2Although Canada’s Transport Minister, Lisa Raitt has suggested the older model DOT-111 cars are safe, rail experts say they are anything but safe. CIBC economist Jeff Rubin said, “They are the tanker cars that have been involved in virtually every explosion”. He said, with rail transport of oil projected to double within the next few years, it’s only a matter of time until an accident occurs in a large urban area, such as Toronto or Chicago. Rubin and others point out that, as oil production from the tar sands and hydrofracturing (fracking) has increased exponentially, proper attention has not been paid to addressing the safe transport of oil.

Railroaded Lac Megantic derailment photoSince the Lac-Megantic disaster, CN and others in the rail industry have suggested they want to “aggressively phase out” older model tank cars. If CN and others are indeed serious about such a phase-out, they and the Railway Association of Canada need to stop quietly lobbying the federal government to slow down this process and rather get out in front of the issue and implement the phase-out themselves. The rail industry in Canada certainly has the power and the authority to transition quickly to newer and sturdier tank cars without having to wait for Transport Canada to force the transition through regulation; however, doing so would mean greater costs for the rail companies and their shippers, and that would negatively affect stock ratings.

Farm Contaminated by Imperial Oil

•January 18, 2014 • Comments Off on Farm Contaminated by Imperial Oil

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo photo 2Rick Bilozer is suing Imperial Oil for allegedly contaminating his family’s farm located between Devon and Calmar (Edmonton Journal). The lawsuit lists a string of alleged environmental infractions since 1970 that include: burial of contaminated materials that spread to groundwater and caused elevated levels of benzene, ethyl benzene, chloride, sodium, sulphates and hydrocarbons; a brush fire that spread off the lease site and set peat underneath the ground on fire for 10 years, causing the ground to cave in and form a swamp; and a number of spills on the Bilozer property including a 5,000-litre spill of oily emulsion in 1982.

The Bilozers have been trying to negotiate a settlement with Imperial since 1993, but with little success. Alberta Environment formally directed Imperial Oil in 2005, 2006 and 2009 to reclaim the damaged land under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, but reclamation has still not occurred. In an amazing abdication of its enforcement responsibilities, Alberta Environment has indicated they will not intervene as long as Imperial Oil is making attempts to resolve the situation, which the Bilozers obviously feel is not happening.

The problem started with an agreement Imperial and Rick Bilozer’s parents originally entered into in 1952 to develop wells on 4 lease sites.

Adding More CarsImperial Oil has a long history of environmental problems. Railroaded has been following Imperial Oil’s environmental and community relations record, since Imperial Oil, Cando Contracting Ltd. and Canadian National Railway joint ventured in the building of a rail yard in 2010 immediately adjacent to 2 wildlife conservation areas and 2 homes in Strathcona County, Alberta. Imperial is storing up to 225 tank cars with petroleum residue (up to 2,000 gallons/car) less than 30 metres from 2 wildlife conservation areas, only 68 metres from one home and 163 metres from a second home. Guidelines specify that new rail yards are not to be built less than 300 metres from any home. The construction and operation of the rail yard violates federal legislation, Railway Association of Canada and Federation of Canadian Municipalities proximity guidelines, Canadian Rail Operating Rules, CN policies and Imperial Oil policies. The rail yard poses a threat to the local environment and adjacent homeowners (see this link).

See this link for more examples of Imperial Oil’s poor environmental and community relations record.

Canadian National Railway Derailment of Dangerous Goods in Edmonton

•January 16, 2014 • Comments Off on Canadian National Railway Derailment of Dangerous Goods in Edmonton

Railroaded dangerous goods sign image 2One of the latest CN derailments occurred yesterday morning in north Edmonton when 3 moving trains collided. Three locomotives, 2 tank cars loaded with dangerous goods and 1 empty flat car fell off the tracks. One of the locomotives leaked an undisclosed amount of diesel fuel (Edmonton Journal).

A CN public affairs spokesperson, Emily Hamer,  told the Edmonton Journal she did not know what dangerous goods were in the derailed tank cars. Edmonton Fire Rescue crews were apparently called by CN about one of the tank cars possibly containing propane. Information (or lack thereof) provided by CN about the contents of tank cars it was hauling in this particular case exemplifies a very serious problem.

Railroaded FCM logoMunicipalities across Canada have recently demanded, through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, to be provided information by rail companies on what dangerous goods are travelling through their communities and when. In the wake of the Lac-Megantic oil train disaster that killed 47 people in July, 2013, Transport Canada issued a protective directive November 20, 2013 requiring any Class 1 railway company that transports dangerous goods to provide municipalities with yearly aggregate information, presented by quarter, on the nature and volume of dangerous goods the company transports by rail through that community. Unfortunately, such yearly aggregate information is not particularly helpful to first responders who require “real-time” information in order to instantly know what dangerous goods are being transported through their communities in the event of a derailment or other accident.

The St. Albert Gazette recently contacted multiple sources in an attempt to find out what dangerous goods are passing through St. Albert. CN declined to answer. CN Rail’s public affairs spokesperson, Warren Chandler, told the Gazette on January 8 dangerous goods information for St. Albert trains was not available. He said, “I do not have that information readily available…CN can move any commodity at anytime on our network in response to customer demand.” When Transport Canada was contacted by the Gazette on January 10, Brian Williams said anyone wanting to know the exact number of trains, and what’s on them, will have to get that information from CN Rail.

Is it any wonder Canadians are concerned about rail safety and what’s being transported through our communities and along our rivers and lakes? Transport Canada says rail companies have that information, yet only requires the companies to provide municipalities with yearly aggregate information – which is really not very helpful. Rail companies like CN say they can haul whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want.

Railroaded Transport Canada logo imageThis absurd situation leaves municipalities and the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who live and work next to railroad tracks wondering about their safety (CBC News). It’s about time the federal government – specifically Transport Canada – exercises its legislative responsibilities for the rail industry, including rail safety. Much of the railway legislation in Canada has not changed significantly since it was first drafted and passed in the 1800s, and it is long overdue to be updated. We cannot continue to permit private rail companies to do what they want, when they want and where they want, when their activities can have such devastating impacts on human life, infrastructure and our environment.

See this link for more information on hundreds of additional CN derailments, including one in Burnaby, B.C. January 11, 2014 and one near Plaster Rock, New Brunswick January 7.

CN Train Carrying Crude Oil and Propane Derails and Catches Fire – Update

•January 11, 2014 • Comments Off on CN Train Carrying Crude Oil and Propane Derails and Catches Fire – Update

Railroaded CN logo oldAbout 50 homes (150 people) near Plaster Rock, New Brunswick were forced to evacuate January 7, 2014 following the derailment of a Canadian National Railway train carrying crude oil and propane (Edmonton JournalCBC NewsCBC News 2CBC News 3Edmonton Journal 2). A significant fire resulted with huge clouds of orange smoke and flames billowing high into the air. The fire continued burning 4 days following the derailment and it was not known how long it will continue to burn, nor is it known when evacuated residents will be allowed to return to their homes.

Nineteen cars of 122 derailed, plus an unmanned locomotive. Derailed cars included 9 cars carrying hazardous goods – 5 were loaded with crude oil and 4 were loaded with propane. Firefighters, police, ambulances and a hazardous materials team were dispatched to the site. A 2-kilometre radius around the fire was evacuated. Emergency personnel kept their distance from the fire as a precaution. The Canadian Red Cross also dispatched supplies and a team of 8 disaster volunteers to assist local authorities.

CN conducted a controlled explosion on January 10, aka venting and burning, in an attempt to allow vapour and gas to burn off 3 tanker cars carrying highly volatile propane.

This is not the first CN derailment near Plaster Rock – there was one in 2004 and another in 2005, both involving dangerous goods.  One of these derailments was not reported by CN and was one of 2 unreported incidents that prompted the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada to seek a summons in 2006 ordering CN to turn over all of its accident records. An in-depth CBC investigation of these data recently uncovered that Quebec-based CN Railway had not reported to authorities more than 1,840 derailments and other accidents over a 6-year period, including 44 on main rail lines.

Railroaded CN derailment plaster rock jan 7 2014A preliminary investigation by the TSB suggests the failure of a wheel-axle combination and a subsequent emergency brake application contributed to this most recent derailment. A cracked wheel was observed by the TSB on one of the cars. The volume of hazardous product spilled and the extent of environmental damage were not revealed by CN. Each tank car can carry up to 650 barrels of oil. Some evacuated residents are worried about the possibility of their water wells being contaminated by spilled oil. Investigators appear certain the derailed tank cars are the DOT-111 model which has been known since 1994 to have a flawed design and punctures easily when derailed.

The train wreck on CN’s main line has caused delays in shipping of goods by rail into the Maritimes.

CBC News reports that 54 trains carrying dangerous goods have derailed in New Brunswick over the past decade.

CN and other railway companies are having trouble convincing the public and municipal politicians that they are adequately addressing railway safety, at a time when the number of oil-train derailments is escalating and the integrity of Canadian National Railway is being questioned by some.

See this link for hundreds of additional examples of CN derailments and other accidents, and this link for information on the many risks associated with shipping oil by rail.

Transport Canada Gives In to Rail Industry Again – Update

•January 11, 2014 • Comments Off on Transport Canada Gives In to Rail Industry Again – Update

Once again, the federal government has given in to the powerful rail industry, this time with respect to the manning of hazardous goods trains.

Railroaded Transport Canada logo imageAn emergency directive, issued by Transport Canada July 23 in the wake of the Lac-Megantic oil train disaster July 6, 2013, included the directive that no locomotive attached to one or more loaded tank cars transporting dangerous materials could be left unattended on a main track. Just as this temporary directive was set to expire and be replaced with a permanent instruction, Transport Canada quietly approved much watered-down safety rules drafted by the railway industry. These new rules drop the requirement that a hazardous goods train be attended continuously on a main track, and is replaced with weaker instructions that brakes simply be applied and cabs be secured to prevent unauthorized entry (Edmonton Journal).

Railroaded derailment n dakota dec 30 2013 picRailroaded CN logo oldCN Rail formally argued against the initial directive (Edmonton Journal 2). In an email, obtained through the Access to Information Act, that CN sent to Transport Canada, CN wrote, “As such, the requirement to ensure these (hazardous goods trains) are attended at all times would, in practice, be nearly impossible to ensure full compliance with.” The CN position, adopted by Transport Canada in the revised watered-down rules, puts commerce ahead of safety said a Greenpeace co-ordinator. “There’s a balance to be struck between safety and keeping costs low, and the railway industry has succeeded in making sure that keeping costs low has won out in terms of how the rules were finalized. There’s a unique risk posed by these trains filled with oil, and leaving them unattended is a recipe for disaster.”

Railroaded tail wagging the dog imageTalk about the tail wagging the dog!!

Rail safety experts have been unanimous in demanding that the federal government assume its legislative responsibility for regulating the rail industry, including safety. The Canadian rail industry has been criticized for putting the bottom line ahead of safety, and it cannot be trusted to properly regulate itself. This most recent surrender of its legal obligations to industry is a sad statement about our federal government.

The “Bomb Trains”

•January 10, 2014 • Comments Off on The “Bomb Trains”

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Another Oil Train Derailment – Rail Crews Call Them “Bomb Trains”

•January 6, 2014 • Comments Off on Another Oil Train Derailment – Rail Crews Call Them “Bomb Trains”

Railroaded derailment n dakota dec 30 2013 picTwenty-one cars and 2 locomotives of a mile-long Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway train derailed December 30, 2013, near Casselton, North Dakota, overturning oil tanker cars that exploded and burned for more than 24 hours (Star TelegramAsbury Park PressAssociated PressDuluth News TribuneValleynewslive.comAssociated Press 2McClatchy Interactive).

Another BNSF mile-long train carrying grain derailed first (13 cars) and some of the grain cars fell onto an adjacent track carrying the BNSF oil train. About a minute after the grain train derailed, the oil train struck one of the derailed cars filled with soybeans, causing the oil train to fall off the tracks. 20 crude oil tank cars derailed, of which 18 were punctured. Subsequent explosions and fires lasted for hours. One observer noted at least 6 separate explosions in the 2 hours following the derailments, which sent huge fireballs and clouds of hazardous toxic black smoke into the air. The fire burned so hot emergency crews didn’t even attempt to put out the blaze.

475,000 gallons of oil were spilled in the derailment, some of it burning off and some of it leaking into the soil. Investigators estimate that at least 7,300 tons of dirt contaminated with oil must be removed from the site.

Most of Casselton’s 2,400 residents followed a call from the Cass County Sheriff’s Office to evacuate the town due to health concerns about exposure to the toxic burning crude which can cause shortness of breath, coughing and itching, watery eyes. North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple visited Casselton and called it a “major catastrophe” that would prompt concern no matter where it happened.

Railroaded National Transportation Safety Board (U.S.) logoA preliminary investigation by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) suggests the derailment occurred at a mechanical switching point between 2 tracks. The oil tanker cars that derailed and exploded and burned were the older-model DOT-111 cars which have been known for years to rupture easily in derailments and other accidents. The NTSB, Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada and most rail safety experts have been recommending for many years that the DOT-111 model cars be replaced or upgraded. Unfortunately, railway companies and shippers have been inordinately slow, and in some cases unwilling, to replace this antiquated model with sturdier built and safer models.

The NTSB is also checking to see if the oil cargo was correctly identified and labelled by the shipper and BNSF. There have been many examples of mislabelled loads in the U.S. and Canada – one such example was the load that derailed July 6, 2013, spilling 5.5 million litres of crude oil that exploded and burned, killing 47 people and wiping out much of downtown Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

In the wake of this and many other recent oil train derailments, rail safety experts across North America are calling on the rail industry, rail safety regulators and federal governments to get serious about improving rail safety. Sheldon Lustig, a rail safety expert who consults with local governments on accidents and hazardous materials, said recent oil train explosions underscore that not enough is being done by either industry or government. “The evidence speaks for itself. I’ve talked to some of the crews and they refer to them as ‘bomb trains’. They are worried, especially in view of the volatility of the cargo being moved.”

Following the latest rash of oil train derailments and the release last week of a report on the particularly hazardous impact of transporting North Dakota Bakken crude oil by rail, stocks of most rail companies have recently dropped (Zacks). As rail safety concerns grow across North America, forcing rail companies to start investing more of their profits into improving safety, railway stocks may well continue to drop.

See this link for more information on the risks associated with shipping oil and other hazardous goods by rail.

Odds and Sods

•December 28, 2013 • Comments Off on Odds and Sods

As 2013 nears its end, here are a few odds and sods that our followers may find of interest:

Mobile Alabama Residents Concerned about Rail Storage and Transportation of Oil

Mobile City Council recently voted to deny Illinois Central Railroad, a subsidiary of Canadian National Railway, property rights to 9 unused roads. Residents feared the properties might be turned into storage and transportation sites for Canadian tar sands oil (Al.com). See this link for more information on the risks associated with shipping oil by rail.

Rail Safety in Canada Took Nose Dive After CN Privatized in 1995

Rex Beatty, President of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, wrote in the Montreal Gazette that everyone is blaming everyone else for the deteriorating state of railway safety. He wrote, “The breakdown of the system in Canada went into high gear in 1995 with the Initial Public Offering of Canadian National Railways. The once-government-owned railway then became beholden to the vagaries of the public stock market, and productivity gains jumped well ahead of public safety…” See this link for additional information on the privatization of CN.

Dyer, Indiana Residents Upset with Canadian National Railway

Residents of several Dyer subdivisions are upset train traffic has doubled and the noise level has increased since CN bought the former EJ&E Rail Line in 2009. Sound level monitoring indicates decibel levels along the tracks rise well above safe levels (Dyer Community.com). See this link for more information on CN’s purchase of the EJ&E Rail Line.

Grayslake Has Had Enough of Canadian National Railway Road Blockages

The Grayslake Village Board has encouraged residents to contact their state and federal elected reps to complain about frequent blockages of roads by CN freight trains (Daily Herald).  The Mayor of the Illinois village said, “These stoppages are causing significant delays in emergency response by the Grayslake Police Department and Fire Protection District. These stoppages are also adversely impacting residents and businesses in Grayslake and the surrounding communities by worsening traffic congestion conditions.” See this link for more information on the costly, hazardous and inconvenient blockages of roads by trains.

CN Rail Tries to Gag Private Eye

Canadian National Railway is trying to stop a private eye from giving any more documents to APTN National News surrounding alleged improprieties, fraud and other unethical business practices by CN (APTN National News). See this link for details of the investigation by APTN.

Canadian National Railway “Put Profits Over Safety” Says Attorney

•December 16, 2013 • Comments Off on Canadian National Railway “Put Profits Over Safety” Says Attorney

The attorney representing Canadian National Railway crew members who were injured when 93 cars derailed in Two Harbors, Minnesota on December 5, 2013, blamed the incident on CN’s failure to remove snow and ice from the tracks (Lake County News ChronicleNorthlands News Center).

Railroaded cn derailment two harbors dec 5 2013 photo 2

Three crew members were injured when a 107-car CN train carrying iron ore derailed as it entered the Two Harbors rail yard, sending 76 cars off the tracks. Another 17 cars parked next to the moving train were also pushed off the tracks. Trains were unable to operate in that portion of the yard for some time, interrupting shipment of iron ore.

Railroaded CN logo oldThe attorney said CN had been informed earlier in the day of unsafe snow and ice conditions between the Highland siding and Waldo and the 4-mile descent into the Two Harbors rail yard. The same day, another runaway train had been reported on the same track, but fortunately that train’s crew were able to regain control of the train. The attorney was quoted as saying, “The railroad had advance knowledge of the storm and information from knowledgeable railroaders about conditions. If attempts were made to clear the snow, they were inadequate. As a consequence, these guys were not going to be able to control that train. The railroad knew it, but they kept sending the train on the track with deep snow.” He said CN’s decision-making did not reflect a regard for the well-being of its employees. “When you put profits over safety, this is what happens”, he said.

Neighbouring business operators  said they had never seen a train pileup of this magnitude, and a retired CN engineer said the derailment was one of the 2 most serious train-related incidents he had seen since he started working on railroads in 1974.

One crew member remains in hospital while 2 others are under a doctor’s care. The U.S. Federal Railroad Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the derailment. See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for hundreds of additional examples of CN derailments.

Transport Canada has Ignored Repeated Warnings about Rail Safety

•December 14, 2013 • Comments Off on Transport Canada has Ignored Repeated Warnings about Rail Safety

As in-depth media investigative reporting continues to uncover unbelievable stories about the poor state of Canada’s rail safety, it is becoming clear that both the rail industry and Transport Canada – which has the legislative responsibility for rail safety – are to blame. Both have ignored repeated warnings about faulty rail safety from the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada, audits, rail safety experts, and whistleblowing railway employees.

Railroaded dangerous goods sign imageRailroaded dangerous goods sign image 2The most recent revelation is an internal Transport Canada audit conducted in 2006 warning the department that Quebec and the Prairies had the highest rates of non-compliance with federal rules governing the transportation of dangerous goods (Edmonton Journal). The audit estimated non-compliance rates from inspections in the Quebec region at 54% and 59% from 2003 to 2005. For the same period, the report listed 43% and 44% non-compliance rates for the Prairies and Northern region. Transport Canada agreed in 2006 to fix flaws uncovered by the audit in its inspection process, poor management oversight, and accountability gaps. These “fixes” were to be addressed within a year or two. Although the department suggested it had completed all of its proposed actions in response to the 2006 audit, a 2011 audit released by the federal environment commissioner called this claim into question.

Railroaded petroleum derailment fire image july 6 2013 Nat GeoThis falls on the heels of a December 7 Railroaded news post indicating federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair criticized the Harper government for ignoring warnings from the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic about deteriorating railway tracks in the town (Edmonton Journal). Mulcair suggested that the July 6, 2013 derailment disaster in Lac-Megantic that killed 47 people and spilled 5.5 million litres of oil could have been prevented if the government had responded to the town’s warning. The town had even written to the Transport Minister and to the local Conservative MP in 2012 warning about the deteriorating rail infrastructure.

Is it any wonder that Canadians are becoming more and more concerned about the safety of shipping dangerous products by rail through communities across Canada and along our river valleys and lakes?

For more information on rail safety see this link, and for information on the risks associated with transporting hazardous goods (including oil) by rail, see this link.

Canadian National Railway Failed to Report Hundreds of Derailments

•December 13, 2013 • Comments Off on Canadian National Railway Failed to Report Hundreds of Derailments

Railroaded CN logo oldAn in-depth investigation by CBC News into rail safety has uncovered information that CN Railway intentionally did not report more than 1,840 derailments and other accidents, including 44 derailments on main lines (CBC News).

After the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada issued a statutory summons to CN Railway in June 2006 to turn over its complete safety records, Railroaded Transportation Safety Board of Canada logothe TSB found unreported over a 6-year period: 1,700 non-main track derailments, 44 main-track derailments, 64 non-main track collisions, 1 main-track collision, 1 fire/explosion, 1 crossing accident, and 32 other accidents.

A TSB Director said that, based on initial discussions with CN in 2005 about CN’s suspicious safety reporting, he “was not happy at all with someone from industry (CN) telling me what should be reported and what should not be reported.”

The TSB was certainly correct in issuing CN with a summons for the complete accident data, and they subsequently entered the new CN data into its internal database. Unfortunately, the TSB did not reveal this unreported and hidden information to the public, and unfortunately did not sanction CN for its years of under-reporting. Olivia Chow, federal NDP Transport Critic, recently said, “If there’s no consequences from hiding the truth, why wouldn’t companies continue to hide?”

Railroaded monopoly photoThe CBC reports that the TSB Director, who now works as a consultant, believes CN’s system of bonuses and rewards could well influence the way CN staff report accident rates. “I think the rewards system is ‘the less accidents you report, the better’, ” he said, but that’s “not the way it should be in an optimal safety culture.” The former TSB Director questions whether CN today is properly reporting all accidents.

An associate professor at the York University Schulich School of Business reviewed CN’s bonus structure and said, “Senior management has clear incentives to reduce actual safety violations. In the short run, there may be some incentive to under-report safety violations with the hope that such problems can be fixed before customers and shareholders find out.”

Railroaded Federal Railroad Administration logoCN Railway has also come under close scrutiny in the U.S. for not complying with regulators. In 2009, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), a U.S. Department of Transportation agency, found a consistent failure by CN to correctly identify and repair defects. In 2010, the FRA imposed a 2-year compliance agreement on CN to improve mechanical inspections by adequately trained and resourced personnel, with a focus on safety.

Railroaded Surface Transportation Board logoRailroaded has also previously reported on CN’s under-reporting of blockages at railroad crossings along a 198-mile-long rail line between Illinois and Indiana. Auditors at the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) found 83 times the number of blockages at crossings reported by CN (1,157 vs 14) in a 2-month period in 2009. CN knowingly violated the STB’s orders that CN accurately report, on a regular basis, blockages at rail crossings exceeding 10 minutes in duration. The STB fined Canadian National Railway $250,000 for the violation, which was the first fine ever imposed on a railroad by the STB.

RETA Lady Justice photo logoCN is currently being sued by a number of former CN employees for allegedly manipulating safety and performance data, criminal misconduct, providing shareholders with false information, and for other irregularities. See this link for details.

Rail safety experts and the public are beginning to wonder what other CN Railway irregularities may be uncovered. One would think that CN’s customers and shareholders must also be wondering.

Canadian National Railway Accidents and Incidents in Northern B.C.

•December 7, 2013 • Comments Off on Canadian National Railway Accidents and Incidents in Northern B.C.

Railroaded CN derailment apr 25 2012As part of reporting on the poor state of rail safety in Canada, Railroaded has prepared CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents, as well as posted many articles on our website. Our hope is that publishing such information will ultimately encourage the rail industry and our federal government to improve rail safety in Canada.

We recently became aware of an excellent paper prepared by James Haggerstone titled Railway Occurrences (Incidents and Accidents) in Northern BC, 2003-2013, which provides a comprehensive list of hundreds of CN occurrences in Northern B.C. including: derailments, collisions, fires, dangerous goods leaks, employee injuries, runaway trains, and damage to rail cars.

The document, which also appears on the B.C. Northern Health website, states, “This preliminary enumeration of railway occurrences (incidents and accidents) is an effort to broaden and deepen our understanding of the impacts and benefits that industrial development in general, and railways in particular, are having in northern BC.” This well-researched document includes a helpful list of terms and definitions used within the rail industry to describe the various types of rail accidents and incidents.

Along with the recent increase in media reports of growing rail safety concerns in Canada, Railway Occurrences (Incidents and Accidents) in Northern BC, 2003-2013 adds significantly to our understanding of just how many rail accidents occur every year. We hope this document will inspire other health and safety agencies across Canada to prepare and release, to the public, similar statistics for their respective geographic regions. These data can then cumulatively provide the public and rail safety experts with the necessary information they require to pressure our federal government into truly improving rail safety through enhanced legislation and enforcement.

The time is over for Transport Canada to let the rail industry monitor itself, especially considering the industry bottom line trumps safety. That’s like letting the fox guard the hen house.

Railroaded fox guarding hen house 2 image

 

And, the time is over for Transport Canada and the rail industry to ignore the hundreds of recommendations made repeatedly by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada to improve rail safety in meaningful ways.

Rail Safety Like Rolling Dice

•December 7, 2013 • Comments Off on Rail Safety Like Rolling Dice

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CN Profits Soar While Derailment Impacts Escalate

•October 31, 2013 • Comments Off on CN Profits Soar While Derailment Impacts Escalate

Railroaded monopoly photoCanadian National Railway shareholders received record revenues based on recently-announced third-quarter earnings that rose 8%. Revenues for the increasing shipment of petroleum and chemicals rose by a whopping 17% (Financial Post).

While this is great news for shareholders of CN stock, CN and other rail company derailments, explosions, fires and spills of petroleum and other hazardous products are causing loss of human life, millions of dollars in damages, and untold damages to the environment. Overall rail safety is being questioned across Canada by municipal governments (e.g., Battlefords News-Optimist), provincial governments, federal opposition parties, rail safety experts, environmental organizations, as well as residents and businesses located near rail lines.

One of the more recent studies on rail safety, conducted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), blames deregulation and poor corporate oversight for weakening rail safety that has resulted in many recent major derailments (Edmonton JournalFinancial Post). In response to intense lobbying pressure from CN, CP and other Canadian rail companies, the federal government started deregulating the rail industry 30 years ago, to the point where the industry today regulates itself with either no or very limited oversight by the federal government. The Railway Association of Canada, an industry lobby group, has been lobbying the federal government “to assure them that current regulations for dangerous goods transportation are sufficient”. The CCPA report criticizes the federal government for its laissez-faire attitude toward rail safety, including allowing rail companies to set and monitor their own safety procedures.

The report indicates the recent spate of derailments comes on the heels of a “wild-west boom” in unconventional oil production, including tar sands from Alberta and shale oil from North Dakota. While shipment of oil by rail has been skyrocketing from a few thousand barrels/day in 2009 to 270,000 barrels/day in 2012, the federal government has reduced its budget for rail safety by 19% over the past 4 years, including cutting its budget for the Dangerous Goods division by a million dollars.

Railroaded ethics imageAt the same time, past CN employees are making the following allegations against the Montreal-based rail giant: criminal conduct by defrauding shareholders, manipulating data to boost CN’s efficiency and share price, retaliation against whistleblowers who work for CN, not reporting derailments and collisions (which are safety performance measures), billing other companies for work CN never did, using partly worn material on new projects to save cost, CN Police lying under oath and unduly influenced by CN corporate, and moving money from one account to another. These allegations, included in lawsuits against CN, have not yet been proven in court.

So…while CN’s profits rise and CN’s shareholders rub their hands in glee, rail safety has been seriously compromised, and past CN employees allege that the corporation has been hoodwinking its shareholders with manipulated performance data and other unethical practices.

Update on Canadian National Railway Tank Car Explosions and Fire in Gainford

•October 20, 2013 • Comments Off on Update on Canadian National Railway Tank Car Explosions and Fire in Gainford

The CN derailment and train wreck at Gainford, Alberta is worse than originally reported.

Railroaded CN derailment gainford photo 2Thirteen of a 134-car CN train, travelling from Edmonton to Vancouver, derailed early the morning of October 19, causing 2 explosions and a huge fireball that lit up the night sky. The Transportation Safety Board said 4 tank cars carrying crude oil and 9 pressurized tank cars carrying liquefied petroleum gas (propane) fell off the tracks. The situation is so volatile, firefighters have backed off and are letting the fire burn itself out, which may take up to 72 hours (CBC News). In the early stages of the fire, the intense heat prevented firefighters from getting close to the train.

An aerial photo of a train derailment in GainfordThe entire area is under a state of emergency – all approximately 100 residents of Gainford have been evacuated as well as all people within about 2 km of the derailment site. Residents have been told they will likely not be allowed to return to their homes until October 22, at the earliest. Emergency personnel at the scene include: Parkland County firefighters, Yellowhead County firefighters and a HAZMAT crew from Edmonton.

Because the derailment occurred so close to the main highway through the community, Yellowhead Highway No. 16 has been closed and may not re-open until October 23.

The Alberta Environment Minister said provincial officials are monitoring the environmental impacts of the derailment including air quality and water contamination. At this time, the extent of any spill of petroleum products and environmental damage have not been disclosed.

The federal NDP Transportation Critic, Olivia Chow, said, “The latest train derailment, fire and evacuation tell the Conservative government that vague promise without a clear work plan is not enough.”

A Greenpeace representative in Edmonton has said, “This kind of disaster will become the new normal unless the federal government takes much more effective measures to improve oil transportation safety. The truth is that the Harper government has become such a cheerleader for the petroleum industry that it is failing in its duty to protect our communities and the environment. This is the third major derailment in Alberta in the last few months. How many more will it take before Ottawa implements transportation safety regulations that were recommended more than a decade ago?”

For information on hundreds of additional CN derailments, spills, fires and fines, see CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents.

Latest CN Derailment in Alberta Causes Explosion and Fire

•October 19, 2013 • Comments Off on Latest CN Derailment in Alberta Causes Explosion and Fire

Railroaded CN logo oldA Canadian National Railway train carrying crude oil and liquefied petroleum gas derailed in Gainford about 90 km west of Edmonton early this morning, causing an explosion and fire. 9 of the 13 derailed tank cars were carrying liquefied petroleum gas and 4 carried crude oil. 1 of the cars carrying liquefied petroleum gas exploded and 3 others also caught fire. The main highway (Yellowhead) through Gainford was closed for an indefinite period of time. The amount of petroleum product spilled and the extent of environmental damage were not disclosed. About 49 Gainford residents were evacuated for fear of additional explosions and fires. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has sent a team of investigators to the site. (Chicago Tribune)

This is at least the fourth CN train reported to have derailed in Canada in the last few weeks. On October 16, 4 CN tank cars carrying anhydrous ammonia derailed in Sexsmith, Alberta. Anhydrous ammonia, a caustic agricultural fertilizer, is a dangerous good. People from about 150 homes were evacuated due to the danger and volatility of the cargo. (Calgary Herald)

Railroaded CN derailment photo brampton oct 7 2013The last 4 cars of a 73-car CN train derailed October 7 in Brampton, Ontario, sending one CN employee to the hospital with minor injuries. The 4 derailed tank cars carried flammable jet fuel residue. (Rail tank car “residue” can consist of up to several thousand gallons of dangerous goods per tank car. Rail companies erroneously refer to these cars as being empty.) The derailment held up numerous Kitchener GO trains. (Toronto Star)

Railroaded CN derailment image sask sept 25 2013On September 25,  17 of 130 CN cars carrying oil, condensate, ethanol and mixed freight derailed near Landis, Saskatchewan. 1 tank car leaked an undisclosed amount of oil, and the derailment sparked a grass fire. The Landis school was evacuated for a day as a precaution. The extent of environmental damage was not disclosed. (Toronto Star)

See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for many more examples of CN derailments in Canada and the United States. Rail safety experts point to the high number of derailments as evidence against the safe transport of crude oil and other dangerous goods by rail.

CN Derailment of Tank Cars Carrying Dangerous Goods

•October 17, 2013 • Comments Off on CN Derailment of Tank Cars Carrying Dangerous Goods

Railroaded CN logo oldA Canadian National Railway train derailed October 16, 2013 in Sexsmith, about 280 km north of Edmonton, Alberta (Calgary Herald). The train was carrying anhydrous ammonia, a dangerous and hazardous product used as an agricultural fertilizer. This caustic product is one of the most potentially dangerous chemicals used in agriculture.

Four of the train’s tank cars loaded with anhydrous ammonia derailed and one of the cars was leaning and slowly sinking. Sexsmith fire resources personnel, having heard nothing from CN following the derailment, ordered an evacuation of about 150 homes, considering the danger and volatility of the train’s load.

In the wake of the Lac-Megantic crude oil derailment disaster that killed 47 people and destroyed much of downtown Lac-Megantic in July, rail safety experts, municipalities and provincial governments have demanded information on what hazardous materials rail companies are transporting through Canadian communities. Unfortunately, the federal government, which has the regulatory responsibility for rail safety, has not forced rail companies to specify what cargo they carry. The public cannot understand why such critical information is allowed to be kept secret by rail companies.

Although the federal government has refused to properly exercise its legislative responsibility for rail safety in the past, they did pledge in yesterday’s Throne Speech to introduce new rail safety measures (Edmonton Journal), in an attempt to prevent future disasters such as at Lac-Megantic. History suggests the federal government will not follow through with this pledge, but let’s sincerely hope it does what it must do, this time, to protect Canadians when it comes to rail safety.

See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for more examples of CN derailments in Canada and the United States.

Pipelines Safer Than Railways – New Study

•October 15, 2013 • Comments Off on Pipelines Safer Than Railways – New Study

A new study by the Fraser Institute says shipping oil by pipeline presents significantly lower safety risks than transporting oil by rail or road (Plant).

The news article reads:

Railroaded CN derailment Wabamun 2 photo“The study by the policy think tank determined that the rate of injury requiring hospitalization was 30 times lower among oil pipeline workers compared to rail workers involved in the transport of oil…Intermodal Safety in the Transport of Oil also found the risk of spill incidents is lower for pipelines per billion ton-miles of oil movement compared to rail and road.” The chance of a spill on railways is over 3 times that for pipelines. “The superior safety and environmental performance of pipelines is ‘hardly surprising’, the study said.”

Earlier studies have similar results. For example, the Manhatten Institute found the rate of spill incidents is 34 times higher for trains than for pipelines. Even the Association of American Railroads acknowledges the likelihood of a rail accident is far greater than the chance of a pipeline accident.

See this link for more information on the risks of transporting oil by rail.

On a related rail safety issue, Teamsters Canada issued a news release yesterday in relation to its battle with Canadian National Railway over longer hours of work with less rest time in between trips, stating:

“In July, CN CEO Claude Mongeau said that railways had to make safety their ‘number one priority’. However, the employer’s demands seem to contradict this statement, and now Teamsters are having to gear up for a fight to ensure the safety of Canadians and rail workers.” (Canada NewsWire)

Another Canadian National Railway Derailment in Ontario

•October 8, 2013 • Comments Off on Another Canadian National Railway Derailment in Ontario

Railroaded CN derailment photo brampton oct 7 2013The last 4 cars of a 73-car CN train derailed in Brampton, Ontario on October 7, 2013 (Toronto Star). A CN public relations spokesperson suggested to the media there were no injuries; however, Peel Emergency Services reported one CN employee suffered minor injuries. The 4 derailed tank cars carried jet fuel residue. Numerous Kitchener GO commuter trains were held up by the derailment.

Rail tank car “residue” can consist of up to several thousand gallons of dangerous goods per tank car. Rail companies erroneously refer to these cars as being empty.

Another CN derailment was reported on September 16, 2013 south of North Bay near South River, Ontario, where 11 cars carrying methanol, sulphuric acid residue and general merchandise went off the tracks (The Nugget).

For more information on CN derailments, see this link, this link and a paper titled “CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents” prepared by Railroaded.

Allegations of Canadian National Railway Criminal Conduct, Financial Mismanagement and Other Irregularities

•September 29, 2013 • Comments Off on Allegations of Canadian National Railway Criminal Conduct, Financial Mismanagement and Other Irregularities

RETA Lady Justice photo logoFor the past several months, APTN National News has been investigating a number of serious allegations against Canadian National Railway by previous employees. Stories by APTN (12345) describe allegations of: criminal conduct by defrauding shareholders, manipulating data to boost CN’s efficiency and share price, retaliation against whistleblowers who work for CN, not reporting derailments and collisions, billing a transit company for work CN never did, using partly worn material on new projects to save cost, CN Police lying under oath and unduly influenced by CN corporate, and moving money from one account to another. These allegations have yet to be proven in court.

Timothy Wallender, a former trainmaster employed by wholly-owned subsidiaries of CN, filed a complaint in August with the U.S. federal court’s Western District of Tennessee alleging “…he was fired in September 2012 by CN for blowing the whistle on widespread fraud committed by the century-old Canadian railway company. Wallender alleges that the fraud was committed under the direction of CN’s former executive vice-president and chief operating officer Keith Creel, who is now with Canadian Pacific (as CP’s President and Chief Operating Officer)”

APTN continues, “Wallender’s allegations centre around the alleged manipulation of the ‘terminal dwell time’ of rail cars in the Harrison Yard (Memphis Tennessee). Terminal dwell time is based on the amount of time a rail car spends in the yard before it’s hooked into another train for transport. The times are key indicators to a rail company’s performance and impact its share price…CN’s CEO Claude Mongeau said in the company’s 2011 report to shareholders that ‘we work hard to run more efficient trains, reduce dwell time at our terminals and improve overall work velocity,’…Canadian National’s supposedly favorable statistics on terminal dwell time at Harrison Yard are based on persistent and pervasive fraud, according to Wallender’s complaint.” Wallender claims his supervisor “told employees at the Harrison Yard that he had a green light and carte blanche from (Keith) Creel to implement his schemes for using false records to show lower than actual dwell times at the yard”.

Wallender also claims his supervisor “…ordered CN employees to not report derailments and collisions to the Federal Railroad Administration”. Both of these statistics are important indicators of a rail company’s safety record.

Railroaded whistleblower imageWallender believes “…he was fired as a result of CN’s ‘unwritten anti-whistleblower policy’ because he tried to complain about ‘mail, wire and securities fraud’ along with ‘violations of SEC rules on regulations and violations of federal laws relating to fraud against shareholders’.”

Here in Canada, former CN supervisor Scott Holmes “…claims to have evidence (based on 40,000 documents) to suggest CN billed the transit company (Ontario Go Transit and Metrolinx)…tens of millions of dollars… for work it never did. He’s taken this evidence to the Ontario Provincial Police and he met with two detectives from the corruption section of the OPP’s ant-rackets unit in February and multiple times afterwards.” A GO source said, “…it’s common business to subsidize CN’s own freight lines in GO projects that CN is in charge of building”.

Holmes says CN is suing him and trying to get him before a judge to “…’shut me up’ for providing the Ontario Provincial Police with documents he claims show financial irregularities in the company’…They say I broke a rule by giving the OPP documents.”

“Holmes was fired from a job he had since 1981 with CN. He told APTN that he lost just about everything he owned except the house he lives in…He was also charged with fraud and CN sued him for millions. But twice, criminal charges against him were stayed by the Crown, once for lack of evidence and the other based on the conduct of CN Police who admitted to lying to obtain… arrest warrants, production orders, search warrants and so on… and being directed by CN corporate during their police investigation.” At a hearing in August 2010, it was revealed “…that the corporate side of CN was directing CN police on how to conduct their investigation (of Holmes). CN officers testified it was a ‘joint venture’ between CN head office and CN police”. The lead CN police officer on the Holmes file said, “…he would get emails from CN corporate directing him how to do his police investigation into Holmes”.

Railroaded CN police logo imageAPTN indicates, “The RCMP is refusing to investigate the Canadian National Railway on allegations the company’s private police force lied under oath to obtain warrants against a former employee who was fired and ultimately charged with fraud by CN police. And as it turns out, the federal government has no authority over CN police even though they have the same powers of arrest as any other police service in Canada”, and “CN’s police force falls under the Railway Safety Act and its jurisdiction is with the Ministry of Transport”.

APTN also describes “…allegations that CN was using partially worn material on GO projects to save cost. A GO source said they would have paid for new material. CN said it’s common practice to use partially worn material…” on GO projects.

Holmes says, “I want my day in court” so he can prove his allegations against CN are accurate and that CN’s allegations against him are not.

Railroaded will continue to follow stories on the claims against Canadian National Railway by former employees Timothy Wallender and Scott Holmes.

 

More Canadian National Railway Derailments and Spills

•September 25, 2013 • Comments Off on More Canadian National Railway Derailments and Spills

Railroaded CN logo oldRailroaded has just updated CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents, which lists a small sample of the thousands of Canadian National Railway derailments in North America.

The most recent CN derailment was this morning near Landis, Saskatchewan where 17 of 130 cars carrying oil, condensate, ethanol and mixed freight fell off the Railroaded CN derailment image sask sept 25 2013tracks. One of the tank cars leaked an undisclosed amount of oil. A school in Landis was evacuated for the day as a precaution. The derailment also sparked a grass fire.

This, and other CN derailments, come at a time when CN is boosting its shipments of crude oil, other petroleum products, and many other hazardous/dangerous goods across North America. CN is also considering shipping oil from Alberta’s tar sands to Prince Rupert on British Columbia’s west coast.

As CN’s rail traffic increases with longer and heavier trains, so does the number of derailments, accidents at railway crossings, wait times at rail crossings, and number of rail-caused fires. The hundreds of thousands of residents who live near CN’s rail lines have to endure more noise, other disturbance and carcinogenic locomotive diesel fuel exhaust.

Rail lines run right through the middle of our cities, towns and villages; and right along our streams, rivers and lakes, posing tremendous risks to people and the environment. The Railway Association of Canada says 12% of rail traffic in Canada involves dangerous goods. The defects of the DOT-111 model tank car, that comprises the vast majority of the total number of tank cars on our rail lines, have been known since 1991. They puncture and peel open easily during derailments, spilling their hazardous products that explode and burn and contaminate our Railroaded petroleum fire image 1 july 6 2013environment. On July 6, 2013, a runaway train loaded with oil killed 47 people and destroyed much of downtown Lac-Megantic, Quebec. Oil spilled into nearby water systems, killing fish and wildlife and ruining recreational opportunities for locals and tourists. How many more similar disasters will it take before Transport Canada, the regulator of rail safety in our country, assumes its legislative responsibility to protect our citizens and our environment? We cannot, and must not, continue to let the rail industry regulate and monitor itself when it comes to safety – not when the bottom line consistently trumps safety.

The Manhatten Institute indicates the rate of spill incidents is 34 times higher for trains than for pipelines. This statistic speaks for itself, and should provide our governments and regulators with the ammunition they require to make decisions about the safest way to ship oil and many other dangerous liquids.

See this link for more information on the dangers of shipping oil by rail.

CN Considering Shipping Alberta Crude Oil to Prince Rupert by Rail

•September 24, 2013 • Comments Off on CN Considering Shipping Alberta Crude Oil to Prince Rupert by Rail

Railroaded derailment Lac Megantic pic 1Shortly following what has been characterized as the most devastating rail accident in Canadian history, CN Railway is considering shipping Alberta tar sands bitumen to Prince Rupert, British Columbia (Edmonton Journal).

July 7, 2013, 47 people were killed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec after a runaway train hauling oil derailed, causing massive explosions and fires that also destroyed a major portion of downtown Lac-Megantic. The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada continues its investigations into this horrific accident that so far has involved railway safety breaches and intentional mislabelling of rail tank car contents.

In the wake of the Lac-Megantic derailment, there have been demands by the public, railway safety experts, municipal governments across Canada, federal opposition parties, and many others for a complete overhaul of Canada’s railway safety legislation and regulation. Yet, before the TSB is even finished its investigations of the Lac-Megantic disaster, CN and the tar sands industry (Nexen Inc.) are considering shipping oil sands products by rail through parks; along rivers, streams and lakes; and through many villages, towns and cities in Alberta and British Columbia. It is difficult to find words to describe how completely inappropriate it is for CN and Chinese-owned Nexen Inc. to be considering such a venture at this time.

We will not repeat the multitude of reasons shipping oil by rail involves far more risk than pipelines; rather, we’ll direct our followers to this blog, to this link and to this research paper prepared by Railroaded.

Railroads and Fires

•September 19, 2013 • Comments Off on Railroads and Fires

Firefighter Putting Out Fire on Burning Rail TiesFires started by rail companies burn thousands of acres of public and private lands every year across Canada. Municipal governments have problems dealing with rail companies that start hundreds of fires annually which cost local governments millions of dollars to fight. Private landowners have problems collecting compensation for damages incurred by fires caused by rail companies. As rail traffic increases, more and more fires are started which cause more damages.

Much has been written about this subject and many people have complained about the lackadaisical attitude of rail companies regarding the fires they start. Rail and Reason has recently posted this article which is one of the best we have read on the subject. We highly recommend our followers read the article.

See this link for other posts by Railroaded on railroads and fires.

Update on Lac-Megantic Crude Oil Derailment, Spill, Explosion and Fires

•July 30, 2013 • Comments Off on Update on Lac-Megantic Crude Oil Derailment, Spill, Explosion and Fires

Railroaded derailment Lac Megantic pic 1A total of 42 people are reported to have been killed by the derailment and crude oil explosions and fires in Lac-Megantic, Quebec on July 6, 2013, with another 5 missing who are presumed dead. The accident is considered one of the deadliest rail disasters in Canadian history.

At least 6.5 million litres of crude oil have spilled into the surface water, soil and groundwater in and near Lac-Megantic. Rail safety experts and government personnel are citing the spill as