Canadians have Reason to Fear Train Safety
The Board released a report on the February 25, 2010 crash of a Via Rail passenger train in St-Charles-de-Bellechasse, Quebec (see TSB news release, CTV News and Rabble.ca News) . The train entered a siding track at excessive speed resulting in 2 locomotives and 6 passenger cars derailing. Two locomotive engineers and 5 passengers were injured, and there was major damage to railway and private property. A house, garage and 6 motor vehicles were destroyed. Via passenger cars and siding track were also extensively damaged. About 3,000 litres of diesel fuel leaked from the derailed train.
Factors reported as contributing to the derailment included: snow accumulation, poor visibility, and misinterpretation of the advance switching signal. The TSB also reported safety deficiencies related to medical testing for employees, specifically the transfer of medical information between employers. Since this investigation, medical records for locomotive engineers hired from CN and other companies have apparently been transferred to Via.
The TSB said the rail system in Canada relies too much on human activity and has been too slow to update to a more automated system. As well, the Board repeated its concern that voice recordings have not yet been added to Canadian trains, which has hampered many investigations to date.
The TSB and a number of rail safety critics continue to point out that Transport Canada and the rail industry refuse to recognize the necessity of maintaining and in many cases improving rail safety measures. Much of the reluctance on the part of the rail industry to adopt enhanced safety measures and procedures is undoubtedly related to the rail companies’ focus on profits which often results in reducing costs wherever possible, including in the area of safety. A good example of this focus on profits is provided by Rail and Reason in this blog titled “Railway President Agrees: All That Matters is Money“, which reports on comments by the President of Ontario Southern Railway, Jeff Willsie.