CN Should Fix Existing Rail Lines

Railroaded CN logo oldCanadian National Railway CEO, Claude Mongeau, has recently boasted about spending $400 million to buy and rehabilitate idle rail lines in Alberta (see this Edmonton Journal article). CN has been busy buying out a lot of smaller rail lines across North America, much to the dismay of residents bordering these lines.

In the United States, communities have been raising concerns about CN breaking promises to mitigate additional noise and reduce railway crossing blockages. In some cases, resident groups and other bodies have successfully sued CN in this regard.

At the same time as CN is buying and rehabilitating smaller rail lines, it continues to neglect its older lines that have been falling under major disrepair. Rail ties are rotting, rail welds are not being properly maintained, spikes holding rails on the ties are popping out, and gravel railway beds are unstable because they aren’t being properly maintained. Many CN employees are well aware of this growing “infrastructure debt” on the part of CN.

An ever-increasing number of CN derailments across North America is evidence of CN’s crumbling infrastructure. CN’s trains are derailing at its rail yards, at switches, and at curves in the rail line where weight on the outside rail causes increased stress. Freight cars are derailing and damaging millions of dollars of freight; and tanker cars are derailing and spilling hazardous chemicals and other materials endangering the environment. This growing number of derailments is affecting the service that CN is providing to its customers. It’s only a matter of time before customers refuse to risk moving their products with CN, and find alternative, safer and more reliable transportation modes.

As well as neglecting maintenance and repair of its older lines, CN lines are also becoming unsightly as rotten and discarded railway ties are strewn along the lines. These discarded rail ties are a fire hazard as they are extremely flammable. Below are several photographs of piles of railway ties that caught fire on May 17, 2011 by a passing CN train along the Camrose mainline near Edmonton. In this case, the CN-caused fire burned several acres of a wildlife conservation area.

CN appears to ignore both the danger posed by, and the unsightliness of, such piles of railway ties along many of its lines.

~ by railroaded on June 24, 2011.

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