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.
An 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).
CN 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.”
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.