Editorial Blames CN for Via Rail Crash
This Orangeville Citizen editorial places the blame for Via Rail’s recent derailment and crash in Burlington Ontario on Canadian National Railway.
The editorial reads, “There should be no need to await the safety board’s final report on the crash before replacing such wholly inadequate switching, something that would likely have happened many years ago had the CNR not had such a cavalier attitude toward safety.”
Three Via Rail employees were killed and 46 other people were injured on February 26, 2012 when the Via Train 92 locomotive and 5 cars derailed as the train switched tracks. CN owns, operates and maintains the tracks used by Via Rail.
Meanwhile, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) issued a news release today, slamming Transport Canada and the railway industry for not having voice recording included in locomotive data recorders. In the 2003 TSB Investigation Report R99T0017, the Board recommended that: “The Department of Transport, in conjunction with the railway industry, establish comprehensive national standards for locomotive data recorders that include a requirement for an on-board cab voice recording interfaced with on-board communications systems.” The TSB news release went on to say, “Voice recordings allow investigators to understand the environment in which crews operated and the decisions they made leading up to an accident. The lack of this information in rail investigations deprives the TSB of a key tool it needs to help make Canadians safer.”
The federal NDP is calling for reforms to overall railway safety following the TSB’s preliminary report that Via Rail’s Train 92 was traveling over the authorized speed limit as it entered the switching crossover, where the train flew off the tracks. The NDP called for the Safer Railways Act, Bill S-4, to be made into law. They also called for a compulsory positive train control system, a system that’s been mandatory in the U.S. since 2008, and for voice recorders to be included in train event recorders.
NDP Transportation Critic, Olivia Chow, said a positive train-control system would have prevented the accident, and having mandatory voice recorders in trains would have allowed investigators to know exactly what happened.
Long-time railway safety critic and former Canada Safety Council President, Emile Therien, says that Transport Canada has relinquished its regulatory control to individual companies, making it more perilous to ride the rails. He says it’s time for rail companies to stop monitoring themselves and for the federal government to step up to its on-the-track oversight responsibilities (see CTV News coverage).
In 2001, Transport Canada implemented Railway Safety Management System (SMS) regulations, wherein railway employees assess their own safety risks, rather than regulatory agency staff. Therien says the SMS guidelines have enabled Transport Canada to offload regulatory obligations onto railway companies, which he indicates poses a problem. He has stated that, “The risk threshold set by (companies) may not always be as demanding as the ones set by Transport Canada.”
At the same time, the Victoria Times Colonist reports that a class-action lawsuit has been filed against CN and Via Rail by passengers who are seeking compensation for physical and emotional injury, damage to property and loss of income as a result of the February 26 derailment and crash.
For more on CN derailments see this link.