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March 14, 2015:

Ontario and Quebec Transportation Ministers Raise Rail Safety Concerns

In the wake of the recent spate in oil train derailments, Steven Del Duca, Ontario’s Transportation Minister, and Robert Poeti, Quebec’s Transportation Minister, sent a letter today to Transport Canada Minister Lisa Raitt over “very serious and unacceptable train derailments” in their provinces and across Canada (Global News). The federal government has sole legislative responsibility for rail safety in Canada. The letter indicates, “We understand that some new safety regulations have been implemented recently by the federal government. This being said, we urge the federal government to further strengthen safety practices on rail lines, particularly crude oil and ethanol.”

March 14, 2015:

More Rail Inspectors Needed

The House Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities issued 10 recommendations on March 12, one of which indicates that Transport Canada must ensure it has an “adequate” number of safety inspectors to oversee the rail transportation of dangerous goods (Ottawa Citizen). The Transport Canada Minister’s press secretary said the department is continuing to hire inspectors; however, NDP Transport Critic Hoang Mai said only one inspector has been hired since 2013. Critics are saying Canada’s rail safety is in a mess because the federal government has let rail companies inspect and regulate themselves.

March 14, 2015:

New Tank Car Standards Proposed by Federal Government but Not Until 2025

Following a rash of oil train derailments, spills and fires, Transport Canada released a proposal March 11 that would require tank cars used to haul crude oil and other flammable goods to meet new standards that include thicker steel, thermal protection, full shields at each end, and more protection over the valves (Globe and Mail). That’s the good news. The bad news is, the new standards do not need to be implemented until 2025, which means crude oil and other flammable dangerous goods will continue to be shipped in inferior tank cars that puncture easily during derailments for another 10 years.

March 14, 2015:

CN Derailment Severely Delays Port Metro Vancouver Operations

The March 7 CN oil train derailment, spill and fires near Gogama, Ontario, have closed the mainline tracks indefinitely from Toronto to Vancouver, causing severe delays to container movements at Port Metro Vancouver (JOC). The CN derailment of 38 tanker cars loaded with crude oil destroyed a bridge, caused a massive fire and resulted in serious environmental damage as oil spilled into local waterways from tank cars that fell into the Makami River.

March 12, 2015:

CN Derailment Forces Via Rail Passenger Service Cancellation

The March 7 major derailment of a CN oil train near Gogama, Ontario, has forced Via Rail to cancel its passenger service between Toronto and Winnipeg until further notice. (Net News Ledger)

March 11, 2015:

Canada’s Rail Safety Standards Insufficient – NDP

Federal politicians are beginning to ask some serious questions of CN and Transport Canada, in the wake of two major oil train derailments in northern Ontario. Nickel Belt NDP MP Claude Gravelle recently said, “After two derailments near Gogama in under a month, it is clear rail safety standards are insufficient. Both of these crashes involved the upgraded rail cars and the result was still devastating. The minister must make rail safety a priority.” Timmins-James Bay NDP MP Charlie Angus said, “What has CN done to our river? We want honest answers about the damage done to water, wildlife and fish spawning. We want the Minister of Transport and CN to come clean with northerners.” (Sudbury Northern Life)

March 11, 2015:

Pipelines Safer Than Rail

Much has been written during the past few years about the safety of transporting oil by rail versus by pipeline. The recent spate of oil train derailments has heightened this discussion. Safety experts, industry and the public appear to agree that pipelines are much safer than rail. Neil Coyne of Chelmsford, Ontario is one of many letter writers who encourages pipelines over rail (Sudbury Star). He also writes that CN needs to, not only remove the floating oil in followup to the March 7 Gogama oil train disaster, but also the oil that has sunken to the bottom of the rivers and Minisinakwa Lake.

March 11, 2015:

Recent Train Derailments Suggest Alberta Crude is More Volatile

Two recent CN oil train derailments in northern Ontario have raised concerns about the volatility of Alberta crude oil (Globe and Mail). CN trains loaded with crude oil from Alberta’s tar sands derailed February 14 and March 7 near Gogama, Ontario, spilling oil that caught fire and burned for days following the derailments. Until recently, industry thought that crude oil from the Bakken formation in the northcentral U.S. and southcentral Canada was the only crude more volatile than conventional oil; now it appears that Alberta’s tar sands crude oil may be just as volatile.

March 10, 2015:

Transport Canada Minister Wants CN to be Called On the Carpet

Lisa Raitt, Transport Canada Minister,  is concerned about the recent spate of CN oil train derailments, and asked the House of Commons Transport Committee to call CN on the carpet to answer questions about its operations (Inside Halton).

March 10, 2015:

Federal Focus Should be on Rail Safety – Not the Aftermath of Derailments

On February 20, the federal government introduced new regulations that will require railways moving large volumes of crude oil to carry insurance of up to $1 billion to cover costs of a potential accident (StarPhoenix). Canada’s 2 largest railways, CN and CP already meet or exceed the $1 billion liability threshold, leading critics to question how this improves the situation. As well, oil companies shipping their product by rail will face a levy of $1.65 for every tonne of crude shipped (about 23 cents/barrel), with the monies collected put into a new $250 million fund that would provide compensation to accident victims. Not surprisingly, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers VP Greg Stringham expressed concern that, “in today’s price environment, every little bit affects the economics” of shipping oil by rail.

As Sarah Thacker of Edmonton recently wrote in an Edmonton Journal letter to the editor, “More focus should be put on rail safety, not just the aftermath of disaster.” This appears to be a good message to Transport Canada, railway companies and the petroleum industry.

Feb. 19, 2015:

First Nation Worried about CN Oil Train Derailment

The Mattagami First Nation in Ontario is concerned about the February 14 derailment of 29 CN tank cars loaded with crude oil from Alberta’s tar sands (CBC News). The major derailment closed CN’s mainline for 3 days, left tank cars burning for 4 days, and spilled crude oil into the First Nation’s hunting, trapping and fishing grounds. First Nations representatives are worried the birds, mammals and fish they rely on will be negatively affected by the spill.

Feb. 16, 2015:

Edmonton Researches CN Train Whistle Exemptions

Edmonton City Council will conduct a study that could end frequent and annoying CN train whistles at a northwest city rail crossing (Edmonton Journal 1Edmonton Journal 2Edmonton Journal 3). The loud whistles shatter the sleep nightly of residents who live near the crossing to the point where they have brought their concerns to City Council. The city will spend up to $50,000 for the study, and the final cost for crossing lights and controls would cost between $250,000 and $500,000. An electronically-controlled crossing is usually required before Transport Canada will consider a train whistle exemption.

Feb. 16, 2015:

Saskatchewan Government Sues CN for Highway Damages

The Saskatchewan provincial government recently sued CN and Via Rail for over $2 million, alleging the companies damaged 3 provincial highways (Leader Post). The government accused both CN and Via Rail of damaging Highways 5, 357 and 369 while they were cleaning up an April 28, 2013 derailment of 2 locomotives and one rail car. The government is suing CN and Via because they both refused to repay the costs of repairing the highways.

Feb. 2, 2015:

Grain Industry Says Rail Service is Deteriorating

The Ag Transport Coalition recently released a report saying the grain industry is dealing with deteriorating rail service and an 11% shortfall in the supply of railway cars (Canadian Press). The coalition says railways have failed to supply more than 11,000 cars that were ordered in the first 5 months of the crop year.

Feb. 2, 2015:

CN Crossing Stoppages Continue to Annoy Plainfield Officials

CN crossing stoppages was the issue at the top of their list when Plainfield officials met recently with their Congressman, U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren for Illinois (Chicago Tribune). CN regularly blocks and snarls traffic for long periods in Plainfield, particularly at 3 crossings that converge near downtown. Not only are such stoppages inconvenient, but they also impact the ability of police to respond to emergencies. This has been a concern for numerous years, and Plainfield officials hope the issue will be addressed and that the federal government will assist because railways fall under federal jurisdiction.

Feb. 2, 2015:

U.S. Railroads Want Only One-Person Crew on Freight Trains

At a time when rail safety is being questioned across the U.S. and Canada, U.S. rail giants want to put a single person in charge of today’s huge locomotives and trains that are longer and heavier than ever (Edmonton Journal). Currently, freight trains generally have 2 people aboard – an engineer who drives the train and a conductor who oversees the long line of cars. U.S. rail companies want to reduce that to a lone engineer. Labour groups and people who live near rail lines don’t think this is a good idea.

Jan. 25, 2015:

Ontario Sues CN Railway for Firefighting Costs

The Ontario provincial government is seeking compensation from Canadian National Railway for fighting 4 forest fires in 2012 near Timmins, Chapleau and Thunder Bay that allegedly were started by CN (CBC News). Ontario is suing CN for $38 million for fighting a fire called Timmins 9 in May 2012 and lesser amounts for the other 3 fires. Timmins 9, the largest fire in the province in half a century, burned 40,000 hectares of merchantable timber, bush and several camps. Ontario alleges that a hot metal fragment that flew off the track started the fire.

CN causes many fires every year across Canada from a variety of sources including wheel-friction sparks, hot glowing chunks of exhaust carbon, and derailments. Local fire departments and/or provincial wildfire firefighters are called in to suppress these fires in order to minimize damages to homes, other property, timber and the environment. Municipal fire departments, provincial firefighters, and landowners often have trouble getting compensation from CN for firefighting and property damages because, in many of these cases, CN does not accept responsibility for starting the fires or simply ignores the claims. Railroaded had one such claim in 2011.

Jan. 22, 2015:

Constant CN Noise Keeps Neighbours Awake at Night

Mandy Dale, a Kathyrn Alberta community association president, says noisy steel sorting by CN across the street from their home is keeping them awake at night (Rocky View Weekly). Even though CN has a rail yard in nearby Conrich, they have been sorting steel in Dale’s residential community since before Christmas, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The constant noise from the steel sorting, trucks bringing in the steel and often idling for long periods, and a diesel generator have been frustrating to the Dale family. Diesel pollution from all of the trucks and generators are also a concern since Dale’s daughter has asthma. CN has not responded to Dale’s concerns, and Rocky View County says CN is not subject to the rules and regulations of the municipality, including noise infractions. (The special federal legislative status of railway corporations in Canada, which exempts them from most provincial and local laws, is frustrating to residents and businesses across the country.)

Jan. 14, 2015:

Paltry Fines to CN and CP a Joke

Canadian farm groups are upset over the paltry fines announced by Transport Canada last week against CN and CP for failing to ship a minimum amount of grain, a violation under the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act (Regina Leader Post). Transport Canada levied a combined total of only $150,000 in fines to CN and CP for violations of the act last summer. Norm Hall, President of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan said the fines fail to compensate western farmers for the 5.1 billion-dollar damage caused by last year’s massive grain backlog. Doug Chorney, head of Keystone Agricultural Producers in Manitoba said, “A fine of such small amount really doesn’t reflect the kind of damage poor service is impacting on shippers and farmers.”

This is another example of how federal railway legislation consistently favours the billion-dollar railroad industry, and then to add insult to injury, enforcement of the weak legislation is either limited or non-existent.

Dec. 20, 2014:

Clean-Up Continues Following CN Derailment Near Raymore

Clean-up continues following the major derailment of 35 CN cars on December 12, 2014 near Raymore, Saskatchewan (Regina Leader Post). CN spokesperson Jim Feeny said there’s still plenty of work to do cutting up rail cars that were damaged beyond repair,  picking up and carting away damaged wreckage, and hauling away damaged freight. Clean-up work will continue well into January. The derailment was caused by a steel plate falling off a rail car near the front end of the train (CTV News).

Dec. 19, 2014:

Chicago Region Still Upset with CN Crossing Delays

The U.S. Surface Transportation Board has extended by 2 years its oversight of the operations of EJ&E Railroad due to concerns about lengthy rail crossing delays in the Chicago region since CN bought EJ&E in 2008 (Daily Herald). Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said CN’s expectation the purchase would reduce crossing delays hadn’t transpired. “The data – thousands of blocked rail crossing and lengthy delays – just doesn’t support their claims”, he said.

Dec. 15, 2014:

Saskatoon Residents Concerned about Derailments and Crossing Wait Times

Railroaded CN derailment image Saskatoon dec 2014Residents living near the December 13 derailment of 5 CN cars filled with grain are concerned that the impacts could have been much worse if the derailed cars had been carrying oil (CTV News). Some residents think it’s only a matter of time before tanker cars filled with oil fall off the tracks in their neighbourhoods. Local residents are also worried about the effect railway crossings will have on emergency response times and access in and out of their communities.

Dec. 4, 2014:

Grinding of Creosote-Covered Rail Ties by CN called “Deplorable”

Richmond City Council is upset with CN grinding up old rail ties within the city boundaries (Richmond Review). The rail ties, covered in creosote, are being ground up for other purposes. Council is upset because the grinding is taking place on property under federal jurisdiction which means the City has no control over it. The property is located near the Fraser River and Bath Slough, and Councillors are worried the creosote will end up in storm sewers that drain into the river. Creosote is toxic to the environment and human health. One City Councillor called the situation “deplorable”. Unfortunately, the federal government refuses to enforce environmental and other federal legislation when it comes to the operations of railway companies.

Dec. 4, 2014:

Grain Farmers Pushing for More Changes to Rail Service

A Saskatchewan farm group coalition is pushing for changes to the Canada Transportation Act (CTA) that would increase competition, increase transparency and ensure producers have a voice in Canada’s grain transportation system (Regina Leader Post). A CTA review panel is reviewing the act, following a serious grain backlog caused by CN and CP that cost western farmers more than $5 billion in lost or deferred sales, demurrage charges and contract penalties this year and last.

Dec. 2, 2014:

Rail Freight Service Given Poor Grade by Shippers

According to an annual RBC Capital Markets survey, freight service on North American railways has deteriorated significantly in the past year; for example, the proportion of shippers who gave CN just a fair or poor rating doubled to 63% this year compared to last year (CBC News).

Nov. 18, 2014:

More Unreported Accidents by CN

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada has recently found another 132 unreported rail accidents (occurrences) by Canadian National Railway (Globe and Mail). Between 2007 and 2013, the TSB said CN did not properly report 9 mainline derailments of one or two cars, and 111 derailments on non-mainline tracks.

Nov. 18, 2014:

CN Refuses to Maintain Quebec City Bridge

Montreal-based CN has refused to paint its Quebec City Bridge which was designated an Historic Site of Canada in 1995. The Quebec City and Levis mayors have recently written CN’s biggest investor, Bill Gates, in an attempt to encourage CN to repaint the bridge located in Quebec’s capital city (Bloomberg). The mayors think Canada’s largest railroad should repaint its bridge which they say is “plagued by rust”.

Oct. 9, 2014:

Wheat Growers Want Higher Railway Fines for Violations

In response to the paltry $100,000 per week fine that may be levied against CN for not moving a legislated amount of grain this year, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association (WCWGA) is calling for $1 million fines against railways who fail to follow the legislation (iPolitics). Fining a railway up to only $100,000 per violation is a “paltry amount” for a railway, said the WCWGA, particularly given CN earns on average $184 million per week.

Sept. 29, 2014:

American Industries Criticize Rail Service and Skyrocketing Freight Rates

The taconite industry has joined others in criticizing railroads publicly (Star Tribune). Cliff’s Natural Resources recently indicated its Minnesota mines “have been significantly impacted by the national logjam of rail service in the United States.” The company says it needs to provide timely delivery of iron ore pellets to its steelmaking customers and “these railroad conditions create substantial and irreversible negative consequences because there is a finite shipping season on the Great Lakes.” Cliff’s iron ore mines are served by Canadian National Railway and Burlington Northern Santa Fe.

The iron ore pellet industry joins farmers, grain elevator operators, coal shippers, utilities and Amtrak executives in the U.S. in complaining about rail delays, other poor rail service and skyrocketing freight rates. They have accused rail firms of giving preference to more lucrative North Dakota oil shipments.

Sept. 28, 2014:

Alberta Mayor Upset CN Did Not Inform Him of Derailment

Yellowhead County Mayor Gerald Soroka is frustrated that Canadian National Railway did not inform him about the September 26 derailment of 15 CN cars loaded with coal in Wildwood, Alberta ( An undisclosed volume of coal was spilled on the rail right-of-way. “We want to make sure our residents are safe and our first responders are safe”, Soroka said. “Without CN communicating that to us, we have no idea the dangerous situation that (first responders) are going into.”

Sept. 18, 2014:

Slave Lake Mayor Upset with Another CN Derailment

Slave Lake Mayor Tyler Warman is upset with another CN derailment near his community, the 6th since May (Global Edmonton). The most recent CN derailment was September 16 when 4 locomotives and 21 cars fell off the tracks just east of Slave Lake. Warman wants the federal Transport and Public Safety Ministers to meet with him and others in Slave Lake to figure out how to prevent any more CN derailments. Federal NDP MP Linda Duncan said the rail sector, by and large, remains self-regulated. “While other industrial sectors now face some level of public scrutiny and risk assessment, the rail sector remains exempted from most controls. It is obvious that as rail is solely regulated by the federal government, it’s time for it to intervene and engage concerned communities in prevention of further disasters”, she said.

Sept. 13, 2014:

Canadian National Railway Has to Pay $5.25 Million for Breaking Rules

CN has to pay a civil penalty of $5.25 million to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for acquiring and operating hundreds of wireless radio facilities in the U.S.A. without prior FCC approval (FCC News Release). Some of the violations continued for more than 2 decades before CN disclosed its violations to the FCC. The scope and duration of the unauthorized operations is unprecedented in the history of the FCC. The civil penalty of $5.25 million is the largest in FCC history for unauthorized radio operations and transfers of control.

Sept. 13, 2014:

Regulators “Pandering” to Freight Railways

Jay Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate committee that oversees the United States’ railways thinks federal regulators have been pandering to the largest freight rail companies in the U.S. while companies that are forced to pay high prices to ship their goods by rail have been suffering (The Hill). Rockefeller thinks it’s time to reconsider rules that have been in place since the 1980s that allow freight rail companies to charge higher rates to so-called captive shippers to maintain “adequate revenues”. “For too long, the regulatory regime of the Surface Transportation Board worked against shippers and consumers”, he said. “Anyone who follows the railroad industry and its history knows the Class 1 railroads are financially strong, and have been for several years. It is far past time that we continue pandering to the freight railroads, and start moving toward a more balanced system that also allows businesses and people who use the rail network to prosper.”

July 15, 2014:

Calls for Ban on Older Rail Tank Cars Continue

Municipalities, rail safety experts, environmental groups, and people living along rail lines in Canada and the United States continue to call for a ban of the older rail tank cars known as DOT-111s that have been known for 2 decades to rupture easily. One of the most recent requests comes from a petition filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation by the Sierra Club and ForestEthics (Associated Press). The 2 groups seek an emergency order within 30 days to prohibit crude from the Northern Plains Bakken region and elsewhere from being carried in the older cars. A train carrying North Dakota crude in DOT-111s crashed, derailed, spilled 6 million litres of crude into the environment, exploded and caught fire a year ago, killing 47 people and destroying much of downtown Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

Although Transport Canada ordered, in April, rail companies to phase out older tank cars within 3 years, critics say that’s not good enough because people and the environment in Canada continue to be at risk for the next 3 years as oil-by-rail transport skyrockets.

July 5, 2014:

Oil Train Safety an Oxymoron

“The entire disclosure debate surrounding crude oil by rail begs an uncomfortable fact – it cannot be made safe.” That’s what Roger Annis wrote in this recent Truthout article. Annis continued, “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.” He wrote, “Compared to pipelines, railways have far fewer regulations governing what they carry and how. There is little opportunity for scrutiny of crude by rail, still less for stopping it. The dismantling of railway safety regulations by successive US and Canadian governments over the past 30 years adds to the danger.”

We highly recommend our followers read the entire article – it’s thorough and very well-written.

July 5, 2014:

More Runaway Trains

Through an access to information request to the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada, CBC News has learned that Alberta had the most reports of runaway trains over the last year (CBC News). Of 17 runaway trains reported to the TSB between July 2013 and June 2014, 6 occurred in Alberta, with 2 of those occurring in Edmonton. On March 8, 2014, 14 CN auto cars broke away at the Bissell Switching Yard and rolled uncontrolled for 1.2 miles before they were finally stopped by a rail employee. On April 10, 2014,  5 CP cars separated at the Lambton Park Yard and rolled uncontrolled down the main track and through a public crossing before finally stopping near another public crossing. Neither CN nor CP would respond to CBC’s request for an interview.

July 5, 2014:

Risks of Shipping Oil Not Taken Seriously by Rail or Energy Companies

On the first anniversary of the Lac-Mégantic oil train disaster, Vancouver-based Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE) is calling on publicly traded companies to disclose more information about the risks of shipping crude oil by rail (Calgary Herald).  SHARE says investors deserve to know whether rail companies and energy companies that ship dangerous goods have learned any lessons from the Lac-Mégantic derailment July 6, 2013 that killed 47 people and spilled 6 million litres of crude oil into the environment. The investor education group is looking for these companies to disclose specific safety performance metrics and targets. Neither CN or CP, nor any of the 13 energy companies reviewed by SHARE identified the actual safety targets executives are expected to meet to earn their bonuses.

Is it any wonder municipalities across Canada are worried about crude-by-rail shipments through their communities?

July 3, 2014:

Lac-Megantic Oil Train Disaster Statistics

The Canadian Press has recently summarized some of the statistics associated with the July 6, 2013 oil train disaster in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, a few of which are: 47 people killed, 5.98 million litres of crude oil spilled into the environment (water & soil), the runaway train reached 104.6 km/hr before derailing and destroying much of downtown Lac-Megantic, 63 oil-filled tanker cars derailed, 60 derailed tanker cars spilled crude oil into the environment, and 3 people face 47 charges of criminal negligence causing death. Read this Canadian Press report for more statistics.

June 10, 2014:

Grain-Shipping Backlog Giving Canada Black Eye

Alberta’s Agriculture Minister, who just returned from an Asian trade mission, said a grain-shipping backlog has blackened Canada’s reputation as a reliable food exporter in key Asian markets (Edmonton Journal). The President of Providence Grain Solutions, who also participated in the trade mission, said, “Western Canada damaged its reputation in terms of being a reliable supplier, with the rail issues this year.” The general manager of  the Alberta Canola Producers Commission said one Japanese trader told him that his company abandoned Vancouver and began sourcing commodities from the U.S. The federal government estimates farmers have taken a $7.2-billion to $8.3-billion hit from the recent grain transportation backlog. Last month, the federal government passed the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act, which spells out targets and penalties for railways, primarily CN and CP. Grain farmers had raised concerns with the federal government that CN and CP were hauling petroleum products and other dangerous goods at the expense of grain.

June 5, 2014:

U.S. Senator Blasts Canadian National Railway

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin from Illinois has recently blasted CN, accusing the rail giant of brushing off local leaders, breaking its word on crossing delays and undercutting Amtrak expansion to Galena (Daily Herald). Durbin wrote to Montreal-based CN CEO Claude Mongeau, “Even minor safety issues are dismissed out of hand (by CN)“. CN has a well-known history of ignoring municipal governments’ concerns, and nearby residents’ concerns, about their rail operations in Canada and the U.S.

May 28, 2014:

Canola Growers File Complaint about Poor CN and CP Rail Service

Railroaded Canadian Canola Growers Assoc logoThe Canadian Canola Growers Association (CCGA) has filed a complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency about what they call “dismal” service from Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway (Global News). The CCGA claims the 2 rail giants have not fulfilled their obligations under the Canada Transportation Act to adequately move western Canadian grains and oilseeds to market this crop year. Louis Dreyfus Commodities, which operates 10 grain elevators in western Canada and a canola-crushing plant in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, filed a similar complaint against CN about 3 weeks ago (Reuters).

May 25, 2014:

Update on CN Derailment Near Fort Frances

A Canadian National Railway train derailed May 23 in Alberton Township, three miles west of Fort Frances, Ontario (Fort Frances Times). 35 cars derailed, the majority of which were carrying potash and paper products; 2 were carrying sulfur. The derailment caused a grass fire which had to be extinguished by local fire officials.

May 25, 2014:

Long Waits at CN Railroad Crossings Anger Village Officials

Railroaded railway crossing photo 3Plainfield, Illinois officials continue to be concerned about the long waits at Canadian National Railway crossings in their village (The Tribune). CN has 16 crossings in the village, and there have been 3 recent instances where a school bus has been stuck at a railroad crossing for 45 minutes, waiting for a train. School officials are concerned that when a CN train causes extended delays, student safety is compromised and students waiting on the bus lose classroom time. In other cases, CN trains have blocked 4 crossings at the same time near downtown Plainfield for about an hour while train repairs were being made. Village Trustee Margie Bonuchi said, “When a train comes in and is parked that long it’s crippling.

May 23, 2014:

CN Derailment Near Fort Frances, Ontario

The Ontario Provincial Police reported a Canadian National Railway derailment today at Highway 11/71 at the Alberton Township crossing (Fort Frances Times). Vehicle traffic has been diverted until further notice. No other details available at this point.

May 12, 2014:

Residents Want Barrier from Noisy, Unsightly Railway Traffic

Residents from the Hearthstone and Rockwell communities in Dyer, Indiana have requested a barrier be built between Canadian National Railway tracks and their neighbourhoods ( They have complained that, since CN purchased the tracks from EJ & E Railway in 2009, train runs have increased from a few a day to up to 34 or more per day. They say Railroaded noise image childthey need relief from the constant train traffic and are concerned that rail cars are often an eyesore because of the graffiti on them, and the noise and vibration during each passing train negatively affects their quality of life. Residents are also concerned about their property values decreasing with the increasing train traffic. The Dyer Town Council has asked the Economic Development Council to transfer $180,000 of a $200,000 sum provided by CN for economic development in compensation to the town when CN purchased the tracks. The $180,000 would be put toward building of the requested barrier which may cost a total of $350,000.

Residents and businesses located near railway tracks across North America would certainly also like some relief from the noise, vibration, unsightly rail cars and property devaluation associated with increasing rail traffic.

May 12, 2014:

Complaint Filed Against CN Rail’s Grain-Hauling Service

Louis Dreyfus Commodities, which operates 10 grain elevators in western Canada and a canola-crushing plant in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, recently filed a complaint under the Canada Transportation Act about Canadian National Railway’s failure to live up to a service contract (Reuters). Canadian grain farmers have suffered major grain transportation bottlenecks caused by what they claim is a preference by Canadian rail companies to haul more lucrative oil and other hazardous goods at the expense of grain transport. Louis Dreyfus Commodities has asked the Canadian Transportation Agency to issue an interim order requiring CN to abide by contractual terms during the complaint proceedings.

May 1, 2014:

Another Oil Train Derailment, Explosion, Fire and Spill – This Time in Virginia

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, 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. At this point, 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 in the James River.

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

April 18, 2014:

Calls Continue to Improve Rail Tank Car Safety

New York State politicians and environmental groups are becoming alarmed at the increasing railway oil tank car movement through the Hudson Valley (Times Herald-Record). The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has reported an increase in crude oil shipments by rail to about 400,000 nationally in 2013, up from 4,700 in 2006. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has said that the older DOT-111 model tank cars are not safe – valve fittings snap off and the steel shells are too thin to withstand bursting open during derailments and crashes. The majority of tank cars on U.S. tracks are the DOT-111s, as is the case in Canada. New York State politicians want the U.S. Department of Transportation to force rail companies to phase out or retrofit the DOT-111s.

April 18, 2014:

CN Railway Fined for Firing Injured Worker

Following a whistle-blower investigation by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Canadian National Railway has been ordered to pay $352,000 to a former employee who was fired after reporting a workplace injury (Journal Sentinel). The OSHA also ordered CN to reinstate the employee, a conductor, to his job. 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.

April 18, 2014:

Farm Policy Group Wants Open Running Rights on the Rails

Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP), Manitoba’s largest farm policy organization, is calling for open running rights on Canada’s railways, where CN and CP would be required by law to allow other rail companies to use their lines, including shortlines and U.S. carriers (Brandon Sun). KAP says that would give grain farmers more options when a particular rail company could not deliver cars in a timely fashion and would enhance rail capacity and competition.

April 1, 2014:

CN Tries to Deflect Grain Backlog Criticism

As CN asks grain elevator companies to step up their performances to help unplug the grain transport backlog, Western Grain Elevator Association executive director Wade Sobkowich is quoted as saying, “The fact that CN is making this comment is just an attempt to deflect attention from the real issue.” (Edmonton Journal) Sobkowich says the main challenge is getting enough capacity and receiving cars throughout the week and “appropriately apportioned” to Canada’s four grain delivery corridors. The federal government recently ordered CN and CP to double the number of grain cars. The grain industry had argued that Canada’s rail giants were hauling crude oil and other petroleum products at the expense of grain.

March 31, 2014:

Municipalities Need Real-Time Data on Hazardous Train Shipments

Canada’s municipalities have asked for real-time information on what hazardous goods are being shipped by rail through our cities, towns and villages, in order to be better prepared for potential derailments, spills, explosions and fires. The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs continues to press for real-time data (CBC News). Currently, the only hazardous goods information companies like CN and CP are obligated to provide to municipalities is year-old data in aggregate form on a quarterly basis, which is next to useless should an accident occur. And, the rail companies have said they will provide this information only if municipalities promise not to share any of it with the public.

CN and CP say they want this information kept secret to protect client confidentiality and for security reasons; however, based on information from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, it appears the real reason is fear that this information would get into the hands of competitors and potentially interfere with respective market shares of hauling hazardous goods. Is the protection of CN’s and CP’s business interests really more important than the safety of Canadians?

March 29, 2014:

Criminal Charges Considered in Oil Train Disaster

Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway logoQuebec provincial police have completed their criminal investigation into the oil train derailment in Lac-Megantic last year, and have handed over the case to provincial prosecutors (KOLO 8 News Now). A Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway train derailed, spilling over 5.5 million litres of crude oil that exploded and caught fire, killing 47 people, levelling part of downtown Lac-Megantic and seriously damaging the local environment.

March 27, 2014:

CN and CP to Gradually Replace or Fix Deadly Tank Cars

CN and CP have said they will be phasing out or retrofitting their own small fleets of older DOT-111 tank cars, the model involved in the death of 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec last July (Edmonton Journal). Montreal-based CN said it will make these changes over the next 4 years, considered too slow by rail safety experts. There are still about 228,000 DOT-111 tank cars in service throughout North America, in spite of the decades-old knowledge that this model of tank car ruptures easily during derailments and other accidents.

March 21, 2014:

U.S. Grain Farmers Complain Oil Gets Preferential Rail Treatment

As happened in Canada starting several months ago, U.S. grain farmers are up in arms about the way rail companies are treating them (E&E Publishing). Mark Watne, North Dakota Farmers Union President, recently said “Rail seems to be keeping up with oil shipments — but they’re doing it at the expense of grain.” Farmers are wondering whether last year’s harvest will get out of storage before next year’s harvest. The Surface Transportation Board has received so many complaints from farmers, it has scheduled a meeting in Fargo, North Dakota March 26 to get input from shippers. See this link for information on the similar situation in Canada.

March 17, 2014:

Torontonians Don’t Want Railways Shipping Oil Through City

In a recent poll of nearly 1,300 people, 69% of Toronto residents do not want dangerous goods, including crude oil, shipped by rail through Toronto (Toronto Star). About 63% are concerned rail shipments of flammable crude oil through Toronto would lead to a similar disaster as occurred last July in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

March 16, 2014:

Crude Oil Still Oozing Months After Derailment and Spill

A tanker train carrying 2.9 million gallons of Bakken crude oil derailed, spilling and burning oil in an Alabama swamp in early November last year. Dark smelly crude oil is still oozing into the water 4 months later (Insurance News Net). The isolated wetland still smells oily, burned trees stand like charred skeletons and “water is covered with an iridescent sheen and swirling, weathered oil”. Traces of oil have been recorded moving downstream in a small creek which flows into a bigger creek and then into the Tombigbee River. Clean-up crews were able to skim only 10,700 gallons of the spilled oil, and about 290 cubic yards of oily dirt have been removed. No one knows exactly how much oil was spilled. Environmental agencies have been criticized for letting the railroad repair the badly damaged rail bed and lay new tracks before all the spilled oil was removed. Once the rail company was back and running its trains again, it appears the cleanup process was slowed down, which is why oil continues to seep into the water, according to Waterkeeper Alliance. The Alliance says this is an environmental disaster that could go on for years.

March 13, 2014:

CN Fined for Blockage of Rail Crossing

The town of Munster, Indiana fined CN for a railway crossing blockage on March 7 that lasted 11 hours, and is going to issue an additional fine under a state statute (Munster Times). The train was about 9,000 feet long, not unusual as rail companies look to cut operating costs. Unfortunately, longer and heavier trains have created many problems including compromised safety, increased deterioration of rail infrastructure, and increased rail crossing blockages. Munster’s Town Manager said railway crossing blockages are becoming more frequent and are interfering with emergency responders. He also said deteriorating railway crossings required immediate repair.

March 12, 2014:

Municipalities Want DOT-111 Rail Tank Cars Banned

Railroaded no exploding oil trains imageA coalition of Canadian and U.S. municipalities has demanded their federal governments ban the single-hulled DOT-111 tank cars that puncture easily and have been involved in a rash of derailments, spills, explosions and fires (Edmonton Journal). The coalition has also asked the 2 governments to force the oil and rail industries to create a multibillion-dollar fund to pay for cleanups such as the one in Lac-Megantic, Quebec which has been estimated at $1.5 to $2 billion.

March 11, 2014:

Lac-Megantic Mayor Pleads for Rail Safety Improvements

Railroaded derailment Lac Megantic pic 1Colette Roy-Laroche, Mayor of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, travelled to Washington, together with a coalition of mayors and city reps from Quebec, New Brunswick, Illinois and Maine, to convince U.S. lawmakers and regulators of the urgency to improve safety measures for the transport of dangerous materials by rail (Edmonton Journal). Their first meeting yesterday was with the U.S. Department of Transportation. An oil train derailed in Lac-Megantic July 6, 2013, spilling oil which caused explosions and fires that burned for days. 47 people were killed, much of downtown Lac-Megantic was destroyed, and more than 5.5 million litres of oil spilled and contaminated the soil and local waterbodies. It’s one of Canada’s most devastating rail disasters from the perspective of the number of deaths, infrastructure destruction and the environmental damage.

The cost of the cleanup and reconstruction has been estimated at $1.5 to $2 billion. So far, Quebec and the federal government are paying the bills. Unfortunately, this is far too often the case…governments (taxpayers) are left paying to clean up messes left behind by huge private corporations that argue they don’t have the funds to cover such disasters.

March 5, 2014:

Financial Assistance to Reduce Train Noise Levels

Railroaded noise image childAn agreement with Canadian National Railway means about 100 residents in the village of Lake Zurich, Illinois can be reimbursed up to $7,000 per household for any work they do to reduce the noise from CN’s trains (Lake Zurich Courier). Noise reduction projects that qualify for reimbursement include: windows, sliding glass doors, entry doors, dense landscaping and house insulation. The assistance is based on an agreement reached in 2009 between the village and CN that provided $2 million for a Noise and Safety Mitigation Program.

Similar financial assistance should be offered to all residents who live next to railroads, because everyone who lives near rail lines suffers from noise, especially whistle (horn) blowing at crossings and shunting activities in rail yards.

March 3, 2014:

Rail Tank Cars Hauling Oil Considered “Unacceptable Public Risk”

Railroaded no exploding oil trains imageRail tank cars hauling North Dakota Bakken region crude oil are an “unacceptable public risk” and even cars voluntarily upgraded by industry may not be sufficient, said a National Transportation Safety Board member last week (Tribtown). Rail safety experts and people who work in emergency response have recently come to realize that Bakken crude is more volatile and more flammable than crude oil from most other parts of North America. It was North Dakota Bakken crude that exploded and burned following an oil train derailment last July, killing 47 people and destroying much of downtown Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued an emergency order requiring crude oil from North Dakota and Montana to be tested before being hauled by railroads (OPB). U.S. shippers were already required to classify oil shipments based on their risk for explosion or fire, but many shipments were intentionally being misclassified as less dangerous than they actually were.

Feb. 26, 2014:

Railway Companies Want Dangerous Material Lists Kept from Public

Railroaded secret keep a photoIn November last year, Transport Canada required all railways to share lists with municipalities of what they’re transporting, including hazardous goods, but the rail companies have said they will cease providing these lists if municipalities share this information with anyone else, including the media (Waterloo Chronicle). This begs the question, “Why are rail companies so secretive about letting the public know what is moving through their communities and along our lakes and rivers?” The public has a right to know, particularly the hundreds of thousands of residents and businesses located near rail lines. Considering the escalating numbers of derailments and spills of dangerous goods during the recent past, rail companies should be forced to share this information with the public.

Feb. 24, 2014:

CN Train Disaster Memorial Planned

The Hinton Historical Society has been planning for a decade a memorial to commemorate the 1986 train disaster when a CN freight train collided with a Via Rail passenger train and killed 23 people (Hinton Parklander) and injured another 95. It remains the deadliest train accident in Alberta history. The memorial is expected to be completed by this spring.

Jan. 17, 2014:

CN Train Catches Fire in Mississippi

A CN train hauling coal caught fire yesterday in Crystal Springs, Mississippi (WJTV). Two men were able to escape from the locomotive but the train was damaged by the fire.

Jan. 13, 2014:

Statistics Confirm Pipelines Safer than Rail

Toronto Sun opinion column reiterates some statistics that indicate pipelines are safer than rail when it comes to shipping oil. Pipeline safety is 30 times better than rail safety. There are over 3 times more leaks per billion ton-miles for rail than for pipelines. The incidence of injury to workers requiring hospitalization is far less for pipelines than for rail. And, pipelines are much safer for the environment than are railways.

Jan. 13, 2014:

No Confidence in Transport Canada

Railroaded no exploding oil trains imageIn the wake of the most recent CN oil train disaster near Plaster Rock in New Brunswick, federal NDP Transport Critic Olivia Chow said she has no confidence that Transport Canada has the capacity to treat rail safety seriously ( “There’s like a decade of neglect, indifference and high tolerance of incompetence.”  With respect to the faulty DOT-111 tank cars, Chow said, “…there’s still no plan on how to phase out these cars. It’s just unacceptable. It’s chicken and egg: unless there’s regulations and certainty, companies are not going to invest in retrofitting or building new tank cars.”

Jan. 13, 2014:

More on Self-Serving Railway Association of Canada

Railroaded Railway Association of Canada logoRail and Reason has posted an excellent article about the Railway Association of Canada (RAC) acting swiftly to keep costs down for its member companies while once again compromising rail safety. The RAC was successful in getting Transport Canada to recently approve watered-down rules for the shipping of hazardous goods.

In response to the July 2013 Lac-Megantic oil train disaster, the federal government had issued several temporary directives including one that no locomotive attached to cars carrying hazardous goods could be left unattended on a main track. The newly-approved rule drafted by the RAC dropped this requirement.

Jan. 12, 2014:

Coal Train Derails on Canadian National Railway Tracks

Seven cars from a 152-car CP train loaded with coal went off the Canadian National Railway tracks January 11, 2014 in Burnaby, British Columbia (Vancouver Sun). The train was operated by a CN Rail crew (Globe and Mail). Three of the cars tipped over and spilled coal. A CN spokesperson confirmed that some of the coal had spilled into a waterway, and local observers said the creek – which is sensitive fish habitat –  turned black. Washed out ground under the CN tracks may be the cause of the derailment, as heavy rains have fallen in the area.

A CP Rail spokesperson said CN, as the owner of the track, is responsible for the investigation and cleanup.

Local residents were quick to denounce plans to expand coal export at the Neptune Terminals. They pointed to Saturday’s derailment as proof that the recent decision by the port authority to expand coal exports was a poor one.

See this link for hundreds of additional examples of CN derailments.

Jan. 11, 2014:

Imperial Oil Violated Nova Scotia Environment Act

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo photo 2Railroaded has been following Imperial Oil’s environmental and community relations record, since Imperial participated 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 rail yard poses a threat to the local environment and adjacent homeowners (see this link).

Recently, Imperial Oil has been cited as violating a section of the Nova Scotia Environment Act governing the unauthorized release of potentially harmful substances (Chronicle Herald).

See this link for many more examples of environmental legislation violations by Imperial Oil.

Jan. 6, 2014:

No Environmental Scrutiny Required for Oil-by-Rail

Those concerned about maintaining a healthy environment in Canada are worried about shipping oil by rail. For example, ForestEthics has recently pointed out that shipping Alberta’s tar sands to B.C.’s west coast by rail is a “backdoor way for industry to bring tankers to the coast without the same sort of public oversight or public process” required for pipelines (Edmonton Journal).

Railroaded dangerous goods sign imageRailroaded dangerous goods sign image 2ForestEthics raises concerns about the growing number of major derailments of oil tanker cars and associated spills, explosions and fires. In spite of the devastating effects of these derailments on human life and the environment, rail companies in Canada are not required to conduct any environmental or socio-economic impact assessments prior to shipping petroleum products. In fact, as a result of antiquated federal legislation governing railways and railway safety, rail companies in Canada are not required to assess the potential environmental or socio-economic impacts of shipping anything they please.

This is perhaps the strongest argument in favour of shipping oil by pipelines, considering the relatively rigorous environmental and socio-economic assessments currently required of the pipeline industry. See this link for more information on the risks of shipping oil by rail.

Railroaded no exploding oil trains image

Dec. 27, 2013:

Most Derailments Not Reported

Further to the CBC investigation into CN not reporting hundreds of derailments and other accidents, Michael Bourque, President and CEO of the Railway Association of Canada (a lobby group for the railway industry), recently said in a typical year many minor derailments take place – most of them you never hear of because they occur in rail yards (Edson Leader).

Dec. 26, 2013:

Lac-Megantic Rail Disaster Named Top Story for 2013

Railroaded derailment Lac Megantic pic 1Editors and news directors across Canada selected the derailment of a train July 6, 2013 in Lac-Megantic as the top news story in Canada for 2013 (Edmonton Journal). The story made world-wide news.

A runaway Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway Inc. train hurled off the tracks, killing 47 people, spilling 5.5 million litres of oil and destroying much of downtown Lac-Megantic in an inferno that lasted several days.

Colette Roy-Laroche, Mayor of Lac-Megantic, said, “I think this tragedy allowed the whole world to reflect on rail safety.” She hopes the global news coverage will inspire governments and rail companies to push for meaningful improvements to rail safety.

See earlier Railroaded posts for details of the derailment disaster.

Dec. 16, 2013:

No Hazardous Materials on Rail Through Lac-Megantic

Railroaded Lac Megantic derailment photoThe tracks will be open and freight train service will resume on December 18 in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, following the July 6, 2013 derailment that killed 47 people, spilled 5.5 million litres of oil and destroyed much of downtown Lac-Megantic (Toronto Sun). There is one caveat – hazardous materials will be banned.

Rail companies will be required to inform the town about the content of their trains at least 4 hours before they cross through the town. Considered one of the worst, if not the worst, rail accidents in Canadian history, the disaster revealed lax adherence to rail operating rules and improper labelling of hazardous goods.

Dec. 16, 2013:

Number of Runaway Trains Seriously Under-Reported

CBC News recently discovered about triple the rate of uncontrolled runaway trains as reported by the Transportation  Safety Board (TSB) of Canada. TSB annual reports from 2000 to 2012 listed only 158 runaways (technically referred to as “runaway rolling stock”), whereas CBC investigations discovered over 300 additional cases of runaways during the same period.

Railroaded derailment Lac Megantic pic 2According to the TSB, “If a runaway causes derailment or collision, it will be reported as this higher consequence occurrence” with no reference in public reports to the runaway situation. CBC reports, “For example, the Lac Megantic tragedy, when 74 crude oil laden cars ran unmanned down the tracks into the community of 6,000, wouldn’t be counted among the publicly reported runaways based on the TSB definitions.”

Close to 25% of the 459 runaway cases in the past 12 years involved dangerous goods. Ontario leads the country with 124 runaway cases from 2000 to 2012, Alberta is second with 101, and British Columbia and Quebec are tied for third with 73 cases each.  Only 9 of the 459 runaway-related accidents have been fully investigated by the TSB.

Upon learning of the CBC investigation, federal NDP Critic Olivia Chow said, “It’s shocking that Canadians have no idea there are all these runaway and uncontrolled trains that are across Canada. These kinds of incidents should not be kept secret from the general public…We’re seeing a decade of deregulations allowing companies to run the trains whichever way they want. So as a result you see runaway trains, unreported incidents, lack of penalties, no investigation. That’s why tragedies happen and why we must do better…There has to be penalties. If not, the practices of rail companies become sloppy, and accidents happen, tragedy happens.” (CBC News)

Dec. 14, 2013:

CN Subsidiary Cited for Willful and Serious Safety Violations

Illinois Central Railroad Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Canadian National Railway, has been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 1 willful and 6 serious safety violations for exposing workers to lead hazards (Insurance Journal). Proposed penalties total $110,500.

Dec. 14, 2013:

Canada Lags Behind U.S. in Rail Safety

Railroaded derailment Lac Megantic pic 1Mary-Jane Bennett, a transportation consultant and research fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, recently wrote an article in the Montreal Gazette about the federal Auditor-General’s recent findings that significant weaknesses continue with Transport Canada’s oversight of rail safety (Montreal Gazette). These weaknesses have been pointed out for about 12 years.

In particular, safety weaknesses persist in the transportation of dangerous goods. The 2011 Auditor-General’s report identified serious faults by Transport Canada and the rail industry. Transport Canada doesn’t appear to know who is shipping dangerous goods, some of which are explosive, flammable or toxic. As well, they do not know exactly what is in the rail cars or where they are being routed. Government “…inspectors are under-trained, their inspections poorly designed, follow-up is lacking, and sanctions are missing. Shippers, meanwhile are operating without final approval in about half the cases,” writes Bennett.

According to Bennett, rail safety in the U.S. faced similar conditions in the 1990s. After a congressional report said inspections “could not provide assurances that railroads are operating safely”, the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) made a number of key changes that helped significantly improve rail safety. The FRA also established the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee to develop new safety regulations, and a risk approach to rail safety was implemented.

Bennett concludes, “In Canada, we’re still foot dragging on how to audit safety. Many of the weaknesses were identified more than five years ago – and still haven’t been addressed. It’s time to get on track and focus on the big issues. Establishing priority safety areas is a must.” 

Dec. 13, 2013:

Paul Band First Nation Chief Says Trains Riskier than Pipelines

Casey Bird, Chief of the Paul Band First Nation west of Edmonton, has recently come out supporting  pipelines over railways when it comes to transporting dangerous goods including petroleum products (Edmonton Journal).

Railroaded CN derailment Wabamun 2005 photoThe First Nation has seen 7 CN derailments in its area since 1987, including the 2005 CN derailment disaster that resulted in the spilling of 1.3 million litres of fuel oil and 700,000 litres of pole treating oil into Lake Wabamun. The lake has still not fully recovered from that major spill.

On December 12, 2013,  Chief Bird said, “Trains continue to pass through our community and through our traditional territories, but now carrying very different and much more dangerous and hazardous cargoes than they have in the past. And the ‘track record’ has not been good, nor is it getting any better.”

The Paul Band joins a growing number of communities across Canada that don’t want trains carrying dangerous goods through their communities due to the growing number of derailments, including spills and fires. See this link for more information on the many risks of shipping oil and other dangerous goods by rail.

Dec. 7, 2013:

Federal Government Ignored Warnings about Deteriorating Railway Tracks in Lac-Megantic

On December 5, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair criticized the Prime Minister for his government 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 spilled about 5.5 million litres of oil and killed 47 people could have been prevented if the federal Railroaded Transport Canada logo imagegovernment had responded to the town’s warning. “In 2012, the city even wrote to the transport minister and to the (local Conservative) MP, the minister responsible for the region,” he said. “Despite that, the Conservative government ignored the warnings.”

Railroaded has had similar lack of responses from the federal Conservative government – Prime Minister Harper, Transport Minister, and local Conservative MP Leon Benoit – to repeated warnings about a rail yard constructed jointly in 2010 by Cando Contracting Ltd., CN Railway and Imperial Oil Ltd. in Strathcona County, Alberta. The rail yard stores 225 petroleum tank cars full of petroleum residue (up to 2,000 gallons per tank car) and poses a major risk to 2 adjacent homes and 2 adjacent conservation areas, including Mill Creek that flows into the North Saskatchewan River.

Oct. 31, 2013:

Lac-Megantic Derailment Was Worst Environmental Disaster

Railroaded derailment Lac Megantic pic 2The derailment of a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway train July 6, 2013 in Quebec resulted in 47 deaths and the destruction of much of downtown Lac-Megantic. While most of the media attention has been focused on the human death toll and destruction of urban infrastructure, relatively little attention has been paid to the environmental damage incurred by this disaster.

Rosa Galvez, Chair of the Civil Water Engineering Department at Laval University, and an expert on hazardous material spills, has called the Lac-Megantic derailment, explosion, fires and spill “the worst environmental disaster in Canadian history” (CBC News). The derailment released about 5.5 million litres of oil that either burned or leaked into the environment. Galvez has said the soil at the explosion site is completely saturated with oil, several metres into the ground, with levels so high, no one will be able to live there until it is decontaminated. More than 100,000 cubic metres of soil must be excavated from the spill site. Decontamination base costs have been estimated at $30 million to $50 million.

In light of this and other recent derailments and spills, it’s a wonder that anyone would even contemplate transporting more oil by rail. See this link and other stories under “Latest News” for more information on the risks associated with moving oil by rail.

Oct. 22, 2013:

Trans-Continental Rail Line Remains Closed Following CN Derailment

Railroaded CN derailment gainford photo 2Three days following a CN derailment, explosions and fire in Gainford, Alberta, the main east-west rail line in western Canada remains closed (Edmonton Journal).

CN Rail has conducted 2 “controlled” burns of propane tank cars in an attempt to safely burn off the propane and stop the fires that have been burning since very early in the morning on October 19 when 13 loaded tank cars fell off the tracks and exploded. Both controlled burns have been unsuccessful. As a result, it remains unsafe for the approximately 125 residents who have been evacuated for the past 3 days to return home. Currently, no specific time has been provided for residents to get back to their homes.

The Edmonton Journal reports that CN’s Warren “Chandler would also not release any specific details of the current situation at the derailment site, including possible ground or water contamination, property damage in the area, and the status of the investigation into what caused the derailment.” CN typically provides very little information to the media and the public following any of their many derailments on main or non-main tracks.

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

Oct. 15, 2013:

CN Workers Ready to Fight for Rail Safety

An October 14 Teamsters Canada news release reads:

Railroaded CN derailment Grande Cache image“The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), which represents some 3,300 conductors, trainmen, yardmen and traffic coordinators at Canadian National (CN), are gearing up for a fight with the railway company…What these concessions would mean is that CN workers would be required to work longer hours with less rest time in between trips, which flies in the face of scientific research on fatigue management. 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)

Rail safety critics say this is but one more example of CN corporate attempting to portray itself as being serious about addressing rail safety shortfalls, but in fact putting the bottom line ahead of safety.

Oct. 5, 2013:

No Wonder Rail Safety is in Trouble

Railroaded Transport Canada logo imageQuestions continue about the sad state of rail safety in Canada. The federal Auditor General recently released preliminary figures suggesting Transport Canada failed to spend millions of dollars announced last year to promote rail safety (Post Media News). This follows long-standing criticisms of Transport Canada’s lax approach to regulating rail safety.

Federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, has pointed the finger at conservatives in both Canada and the USA, stating, “Across the board, conservative governments are gutting the rules meant to protect the public and imposing industry self-regulation instead…Experts from the Transportation Safety Board and Transport Canada are still investigating the role decades of deregulation played in the tragedy of Lac-Megantic.” (National Post)

Oct. 3, 2013:

CP’s Harrison Calls for Improved Rail and Tank Car Safety

Railroaded CP Rail logo imageIn the wake of the Lac-Megantic crude oil derailment disaster, Canadian Pacific Railway’s CEO, Hunter Harrison, recently said, “We need to improve tank cars, railroads need to operate better and safer and employees have to obey the rules…” (Globe and Mail). Harrison warned that a catastrophic derailment like the one that killed 47 people and destroyed the centre of Lac-Megantic could happen again.

It’s most interesting – some might say hypocritical – for Harrison, who was CEO of Canadian National Railway before joining CP, to suggest at this particular time that rail safety needs to improve. He has had most of his working life to make these kinds of improvements, but has not. In fact, under his leadership at CN, many have criticized him for making the bottom line paramount to safety. As CEO of CN and CP, Harrison has most certainly had many opportunities to directly address the safety issues he has recently raised.

Sept. 27, 2013:

What’s in Rail Tank Cars?

Railroaded petroleum derailment fire image july 6 2013 Nat GeoAt a meeting this week, provincial Transport Ministers spoke up on behalf of their Mayors who are demanding to know what hazardous products are in the tank cars being hauled through their towns and cities every day (CBC News). Provincial ministers asked their federal counterpart why provinces and municipalities can’t get this information, especially considering it’s municipal firefighters and emergency workers who must try to save lives and clean up the mess after a train load of hazardous products derails, explodes and/or catches fire.

It appears rail companies and the petroleum and chemical industries that ship their dangerous products by rail don’t want people to know what’s moving through their cities, towns and villages. In some cases, including the recent Lac-Megantic disaster, contents of tank cars are intentionally mislabelled so people won’t be alarmed. Provinces, municipalities and rail safety organizations are no longer willing to put up with this situation.

Sept. 26, 2013:

Self-serving Railway Legislation Needs Overhauling

Railroaded noise imageA Point-St-Charles, Quebec resident who is fed up with the noisy and unhealthy shunting activities of Canadian National Railway next to his home says, “The time for a complete overhaul of the self-serving railway legislation is long overdue” (Montreal Gazette).

The writer goes on to say, “The Lac-Megantic disaster has received enormous coverage in the press, and for good reason; Canada’s railways were incorporated before Confederation, and the colonial mentality that reigned at that time has persisted in the railway sphere: imperiousness, disregard for collateral damage inflicted by their actions, lack of transparency – the list goes on.” 

Sept. 26, 2013:

Discrimination Award Against CN Upheld by Federal Court

Railroaded discrimination image

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

Sept. 26, 2013:

Manitoba Says No to Shipping Oil by Rail

“Manitoba Transportation Minister Steve Ashton said in light of the deadly train derailment in Lac-Megantic, Que., earlier this year, the province can’t support the shipment of crude oil through its fragile northern environment to the port in Churchill, Man.” (Canadian Press)

Many other political leaders at the municipal, provincial and federal levels are expressing similar concerns about shipping crude oil and other dangerous products by rail. Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently indicated how much safer pipelines are than trains when it comes to transporting oil (National Post).

Sept. 26, 2013:

U.S. Senator Says Rail Tank Cars a Major Danger

Cando 402U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer recently said the DOT-111 model tank car – the most common model on American and Canadian rail lines –  must be phased out, upgraded or limited for use with non-flammable liquids (United Press International). He said, “…these old, weak and structurally ‘flawed’ tank cars continue to be widely used for carrying crude oil, ethanol, propane and other volatile, flammable liquids…The experts have looked at it and said that it’s not safe, that it’s prone to tearing and splitting, should there be a derailment.”

The DOT-111 tank car is the most common model used by CN and CP in Canada.

Sept. 26, 2013:

Railroads in Canada “An Accident Just Waiting To Happen” Says Ex-CN Rail Conductor

Railroaded CN loco on car imageMike Hayes, a retired CN conductor, recently wrote about the Lac-Megantic derailment disaster, “Many people will be passing the buck so as not to be held responsible and protect their own backsides but the citizens of Canada should be made aware that this has been an accident just waiting to happen.” (Windsor Star)

He pointed to the gradual downsizing in the number of crew members per train as one of the many reasons train safety has plummeted.

Aug. 2, 2013:

Was Derailed Train’s Cargo More Than Oil?

Railroaded petroleum derailment fire image july 6 2013 Nat GeoEvidence to date suggests that the MM&A Railway train that derailed in Lac-Megantic July 6, killing 47 people, carried hazardous materials more dangerous than light crude oil (Edmonton Journal).

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) said yesterday that crude oil doesn’t usually lead to the “fierce fire” and subsequent explosions as occurred in Lac-Megantic. Apparently, some cleanup workers had been burned or were affected in ways that aren’t usually associated with crude oil. A TSB official also said he smelled what he thought was a very strong solvent at various locations in Lac-Megantic during his investigations. The exact composition of the North Dakota Bakken crude oil the train was hauling is unknown at this point, as neither the railway company nor the North Dakota State government would provide this information.

Municipalities across North America are becoming angry over the fact that railway companies do not share information on what hazardous materials or how much they are hauling through our cities, towns and villages.

July 29, 2013:

Death of CN Worker Results in Safety Changes

Railroaded CN logo oldJuly 14, 2013 was the second anniversary of the death of Rick McColl, a senior track foreman for CN. His death has prompted safety improvements for thousands of other railway workers (Metroland).

Two years ago, 2 CN workers were repairing a section of track when a Via Rail train travelling on a track next to the track the workers were repairing hit and killed McColl. The Transportation Safety Board criticized CN for improper or no training regarding the “Safety Watch” procedure, and criticized Transport Canada for lax implementation of its overall responsibility for rail safety.

Todd Cotie of the United Steelworkers Local 2004, which represents CN track workers in Ontario, said, “It’s unfortunate that it usually takes a tragedy before we see improvements, that’s usually what happens.”

July 29, 2013:

Train Noise Tops City’s Complaints List

Railroaded noise image childThe Mayor of New Westminster says noise caused by numerous rail companies including Canadian National has risen to the top of New Westminster’s complaints (Vancouver Sun). Late-night train horns (whistles) at crossings, constant vibration and rumbling, shotgun sounds of disconnecting air brakes, the clash and crash of cars being shunted in rail yards and pollution created by the diesel locomotives are among the many complaints. He and his Council are worried sleep-deprived residents will take matters into their own hands, considering there have already been some altercations between residents and train crews.

Most municipalities have set the threshold governing after-hours noise at about 90 decibels, but the average train whistle is between 100 and 150 decibels. Unfortunately, railways in Canada do not have to obey municipal noise level bylaws, with only a few exceptions. Studies have shown that exposure to loud noise can harm mental health, children’s performance in school and lead to increased blood pressure and stress.

Twenty-two municipalities across Canada are fighting to ban late-night train noise. These and many other communities are closely watching the Canadian Transportation Agency review of a train noise complaint by the Quayside neighbourhood in New Westminster. See this link for more information on the negative impacts of train noise.

July 11, 2013:

CN Actions Called “Callous”, “Sickening” and a “Money-Grab”

RETA dollars in money bag imageRail giant CN Railway is suing a grieving mother for $500,000 for the “inconvenience” caused by her son’s death in a train crash (New York Daily News).

John Jobson, 22, was killed 2 years ago after a CN train crashed into his pickup truck at a rail crossing near Glencoe, Ontario. The crossing had nonstandard warning signs that were partly covered by weeds, and the incoming train’s horn did not meet current requirements. The suit claims John Jobson was “wholly responsible” for the crash and that his mother needs to pay up for the “substantial expense” CN claims he caused.

Following her son’s death, Sharon Jobson campaigned for the installation of lights, gates and bells at the Pratt Siding crossing where he was killed. Thanks to her efforts, $400,000 in improvements were approved earlier this year and the new safety equipment is to be installed shortly.

Sharon Dobson’s supporters have called CN’s lawsuit “callous”, “sickening” and a “money-grab”.

April 20, 2013:

CN Train Derails Near Cedarvale, British Columbia

Railroaded CN logo oldA Canadian National Railway train derailed east of Terrace early in the morning, April 19. Five intermodal cars carrying household consumer goods left the tracks, causing the rail line to be shut down for an undisclosed amount of time (CJFW). See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for more examples of CN derailments.

March 18, 2013:

CN Derailment Near Hatfield, Wisconsin

A CN train carrying sand derailed March 16 near Hatfield, Wisconsin, closing County Road K for at least a day (La Cross Tribune). The 19 cars that derailed spilled sand across the area. See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents  for more examples of CN’s safety and environmental records.

March 8, 2013:

CN Derailment in Winnipeg

A CN train derailed yesterday and blocked traffic on the East Perimeter Road in Winnipeg (Metro Winnipeg). One locomotive and one intermodal rail car derailed following what appeared to be a collision between 2 CN trains in a rail yard.

Feb. 11, 2013:

Imperial Oil’s Tar Sands Project Goes Overbudget and Is Further Delayed

Railroaded Big Oil Stamp PhotoImperial Oil Ltd., the company that is storing petroleum tank cars in a recently built rail yard right next to 2 homes and 2 wildlife conservation areas near Edmonton, Alberta, has gone another $2 billion overbudget on its Kearl tar sands project in Fort McMurray, Alberta (Globe and Mail). This latest estimate is 61% higher than the original calculation of $8 billion.

The higher costs have been attributed to Imperial Oil’s bungled building of processing modules in South Korea and then transporting them by highway up to Alberta from Lewiston, U.S.A. Imperial lost a court battle initiated by residents, tourism operators and other businesses in Idaho and Montana who successfully argued the megaloads of processing modules would negatively impact the environment, tourism industry and traffic flow along scenic byways that Imperial had proposed as hauling routes.

An analyst with CIBC World Markets Inc. said, “The biggest impact will likely be to the [Imperial/Exxon] reputation as a ‘premium’ operator.”

Jan. 5, 2013:

Risks of Long Rail Crossing Delays

Railroaded railway crossing photo 3B. Patterson of Edmonton writes in this letter to the Edmonton Journal, “Every day thousands of motorists are inconvenienced by trains on level crossings throughout the city on CN and CP rail lines.” He speculates about emergency responders (ambulance, fire, police) that are delayed by trains at level crossings, and the impacts on human life.

Railroaded has reported earlier on the increasingly long wait times at level rail crossings. There have been many complaints in Canada and the United States, especially because railway companies are forming longer and slower-moving trains that block thousands of rail crossings every day and delay hundreds of thousands of vehicles. Blocked railway crossings are a growing inconvenience to motorists, pose a significant risk to emergency vehicle response times, result in productivity and commercial losses due to delays, and result in increased air pollution as vehicles idle while waiting at the crossings.

Unfortunately, there is no clear legislation in Canada or the U.S. to address this serious matter, and any rules, guidelines or suggestions are not binding and cannot really be enforced.

Jan. 4, 2013:

CN Derailment North of Whistler, B.C.

Railroaded CN derailment b.c. jan 3 2013 photoThree empty rail cars went off the tracks January 3 as a CN train crossed a rail bridge between Whistler and Pemberton, British Columbia (Globe and Mail, Whistler Question). One rail car flipped off the bridge onto Highway 99 just south of Suicide Hill, closing the highway for about 2 hours. One vehicle sustained minor damages from flying debris.

On November 8, 2012, a punctured CN locomotive fuel tank spilled about 5,700 litres of diesel fuel into the Squamish Estuary, a short distance southwest of this most recent CN accident (see Railroaded November 14 “Latest News” post). In 2005, 9 CN cars derailed near Squamish, spilling toxic caustic soda and devastating the fish population in the Cheakamus River – about 500,000 fish were killed.

See this link for more examples of CN derailments.

Dec. 28, 2012:

CN and CP Exceed Western Grain Revenue Caps

The Canadian Transportation Agency has recently ruled that both Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway exceeded revenue caps for the movement of western grain for the 2011-12 crop year (Canada News Centre). Both railways must pay the amount by which they exceeded their 2011-12 caps plus a penalty to the Western Grains Research Foundation.

Dec. 10, 2012:

Improved Rail Freight Service Legislation to be Tabled Soon

Railroaded balance photoRETA has reported earlier on plans by the federal government to introduce legislation to address the growing number of complaints of poor service from customers of Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway. Draft legislation may be tabled as early as tomorrow (Dec. 11) (Financial Post). While the details of the draft legislation are not known, the federal government has committed to rebalance the power in negotiations with both CN and CP  by giving shippers the right to service agreements with the railway giants and a process to establish such agreements should commercial negotiations fail.

Nov. 15, 2012:

Canadian National Quiet Zone Extended

A new Canadian National Railway “Quiet Zone” restriction in Naperville and Warrenville, Illinois will take effect November 19, 2012 (Beacon-News). CN trains will not be allowed to sound their horns in this quiet zone unless deemed necessary for safety purposes. Naperville and Warrenville join Aurora and DuPage County in successfully pressing for the quiet zone after residents complained about the excessive horn use by CN on the rail line they took over from Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway in January 2009.

Thirty-three communities along the former EJ&E Railway main line have been battling with CN over their concern about CN’s aggressive approach to the EJ&E takeover. Communities have been concerned about increased rail traffic, increased noise and diesel exhaust pollution, adjacent property devaluation, and increased traffic jams at many rail crossings which have very significant impacts on emergency vehicle response times.

TRAC (The Regional Answer to Canadian National), a coalition of  suburban Chicago-area leaders, joined forces to ensure the quality of life of more than 1 million residents is not adversely impacted by CN’s takeover of EJ&E. TRAC is also attempting to ensure that CN upholds commitments it made prior to and during the takeover. To date, this organization and some communities along the line have had some successes – including taking CN to court – but still have many outstanding concerns.

See this link for more on CN’s takeover of EJ&E Railway. Canadian National Railway has a long track record of violating legislation, guidelines, conditions and policies.

Nov. 14, 2012:

CN Rail Spills 5,700 Litres of Diesel Fuel

A 6-axle CN locomotive had its fuel tank punctured by a broken piece of track November 8, 2012 just north of Squamish Terminals, British Columbia, causing about 5,700 litres of diesel fuel to spill onto the track and into the Squamish Estuary (Squamish Chief).

Containment booms were used to try to limit migration of the diesel fuel in the sensitive estuary ecosystem. Concerns were expressed by local residents because the herring spawning season was close to starting and herring eggs are very sensitive to environmental contamination. About 50 feet of rail track was also torn up and the subsurface soil dug up in an attempt to remove some of the diesel fuel.

A local former B.C. Rail employee placed part of the blame on CN using large 6-axle locomotives on the line whereas when B.C. Rail was operating the same line it used smaller 4-axle locomotives. He indicated the 6-axle units can’t make the turns on that section of track without placing too much stress on the track.

CN’s safety standards have been criticized many times previously by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, other safety experts, former railway employees and critics of privatizing CN and B.C. Rail. Criticisms include: cutting safety corners to increase profits, too-long-trains and double-stacking that place excessive pressure on the existing track system, deteriorating rail infrastructure (e.g., rotting rail ties, loose rail spikes and screws, poor track welds, slumping rail beds), deteriorating and poorly maintained rail cars, excessive speed, not following safety guidelines and Canadian Rail Operating Rules properly, and disincentives for employees to report safety problems.

Nov. 1, 2012:

Lawsuit Against CN and VIA to Go Ahead

Ontario’s Superior Court has given the go-ahead for a lawsuit against Via Rail and CN Rail on behalf of most of the passengers of a fatal train derailment in Burlington, Ontario last February (Toronto Sun, Canadian Press). The train was traveling 4 times faster than the speed limit while changing tracks and resulted in 3 deaths and many injuries. See this link, this link and Railroaded’s Oct. 26, 2012 news post for more details on this derailment.

Oct. 29, 2012:

People Worried about Derailments and Spills

A train that derailed October 29 in Louisville, Kentucky, spilling cancer-causing chemicals has raised the level of concern by Councilwoman Mary Woolridge’s constituents about all the rail traffic carrying dangerous goods through their communities (Courier-Journal). Her constituents are worried not only about derailments, but the safety of tank and other rail cars full of toxic products parked along rail sidings and in rail yards.

Oct. 26, 2012:

Possible Class-Action Lawsuit Against VIA and CN

Arguments for a class-action lawsuit to proceed include that Via Rail and CN Rail were negligent in the February 26, 2012 Via derailment in Burlington, Ontario that killed 3 Via employees, injured 1 Via employee and injured 45 passengers. Altogether, 68 of the 75 passengers have joined the lawsuit (CBC News). See this link and this link for more details on the derailment.

Oct. 24, 2012:

CN Rail Fails to Notify Waterloo

Railroaded CN logo oldThe Waterloo Chronicle reports that CN Rail failed to notify the Region of Waterloo, Ontario about an October 11 derailment of 4 tanker cars. The Region of Waterloo says this is a violation of an agreement between the 2 parties. The news article reads, “The incident has left Waterloo residents worried, as the train was bound for the Chemtura chemical manufacturing plant in Elmira.”

Oct. 19, 2012:

Residents Upset about Rail Traffic

The increase in freight train traffic across the U.S. is creating conflict with nearby residents who are becoming increasingly concerned about the noise and blockage of road crossings (Star-Telegram). For example, Canadian National Railway’s rerouting of its freight trains away from downtown Chicago has angered residents in the Village of Barrington, where trains of 10,000 feet or longer have blocked 4 road crossings at once, essentially splitting the village down the middle and creating problems for emergency vehicle access.

Oct. 17 & 18, 2012:

More CN Incidents on TSB’s Safety Watchlist

On June 23, 2011, a moving CN freight train collided with the tail end of a stationary CN freight train in Edmonton, Alberta. Two intermodal  flat cars from the stationary train derailed, and the lead locomotive in the moving train was damaged. The crew in the moving train did not have a long-enough clear and direct line of sight and did not reduce train speed accordingly before it collided with the stationary train. The recent Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada news release on the incident reads, “In the absence of additional backup safety defences in signalled territory, when signal indications are not correctly identified or followed, existing defences may not be adequate to reduce the risk of collision and derailment.” The TSB has had an outstanding recommendation for more than a decade regarding this problem and has identified it as an issue on its Watchlist which is a list of issues “the TSB has determined pose the most serious risk to Canada’s transportation system.”

This recent TSB news release about an October 29, 2011 rail near-miss near Meharry, Manitoba, between a VIA Rail passenger train and a CN freight train highlights another outstanding issue on the TSB’s Watchlist – the need for video and voice recorders on locomotives. The absence of such recorders has hindered many TSB investigations of rail accidents and rail near-misses.

Oct. 13, 2012:

Pipelines Safer and More Efficient than Rail Companies

The Canadian Press reports that a briefing note for the Prime Minister indicates that even though rail companies face no regulatory hurdles for hauling western Canadian crude oil to markets, pipelines (which do face such hurdles) remain more efficient. The briefing note reads, “Pipelines are generally the most efficient and cost-effective means by which to transport large quantities of oil over significant overland distances. In addition, pipeline operators in North America are strictly regulated and have a strong overall safety record.”

Federal environmental and safety legislation regarding railways in Canada is generally weak and seldom enforced. As a result, Canadian rail companies have been touting how much easier it would be to haul oil by rail. However, as the briefing note to the Prime Minister rightly points out, the stricter environmental regulation of the pipeline industry along with that industry’s higher overall safety record, means shipping oil by pipeline is safer than by rail.

See this link for examples of train derailments and spills.

Oct. 6, 2012:

CN Profits vs. Service

Savecfbrockcliff’s blog’s October 6 post provides examples of how the privatization of Canadian National Railway in 1995 has affected Canada. The blog reads, “CN is a billion-dollar business, while the Crown corporation CNR was a service…today CN Rail is more interested in raking in profits for the benefit of shareholders…” than in providing good service.

Also see the July 30, 2012, December 8, 2010 and August 19, 2010 links for more on the privatization of Canadian National Railway.

Oct. 4, 2012:

CN Rail Spill Issues Continue

“Fuel spilled during a train derailment on the shores of Lake Ontario in the township east of Port Hope and south of County Road 2 continues to come up through the ‘swamp area’, says Hamilton Township Mayor Mark Lovshin” (Northumberland Today). Production on 2 private farm properties is still not back to normal following a Canadian National Railway derailment March 27, 2011, when 25 rail cars left the track and spilled jet fuel, propane and other dangerous goods. Not only the farmland near the lake was affected, but the access roadways to them as well. Clean-up to date has included excavating and hauling away contaminated soil. It is not known whether CN has paid compensation to the farmers for damages.

Railroaded CN logo oldAt the time of the derailment, booms were required to contain the spills. A fire broke out and a “Red Alert” was issued through Emergency Management Ontario. A Red Alert means there is “a major risk to health, safety and security”. Families from 20 houses were forced to flee their homes. The rail corridor was also shut down. See further coverage of the derailment and spill at this link.

Sept. 25, 2012:

CN Railway Keeps Seniors Awake

In a letter to The Herald News, Joanne Mareno complains that Canadian National Railway engineers blast their whistles so loud day and night that seniors in several nursing homes in Joliet, Illinois can’t talk on the phone or sleep. Apparently, the seniors have been promised that a train whistle “quiet zone” will be considered for their neighborhood. Mareno also points out in her letter that ambulances on their way to the nursing homes sometimes have to wait 15-20 minutes at railway crossings because the trains are too long.

Sept. 8, 2012:

Another CN Derailment

On September 8, 2012, reported a CN derailment in the Battle Creek Yard, Michigan. Apparently, about 8 cars with grain derailed and ripped up about 700 feet of track and a switch.

July 31, 2012:

Railway Activities Jeopardize Nearby Pipelines

Occupational Health & Safety reports that the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration recently issued an advisory bulletin alerting all pipeline owners and operators to check their pipeline facilities after rail accidents or other events near their pipelines. The alert is subsequent to a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendation on the matter following a major derailment of a Canadian National Railway freight train in Cherry Valley, Illinois on June 19, 2009.

Railroaded CN logo oldNineteen tank cars full of ethanol derailed causing a giant fire, one death and 9 other injuries. Monetary damages totaled $7.9 million and CN settled a $36.2 million lawsuit from the family of the dead victim.  A nearby gas pipeline buried 11 feet below ground was dented. This was 5 times deeper than the rail industry’s recommended depth at the time the pipeline was built. The NTSB final report blamed the accident on CN’s inadequate emergency communications.

Not only train derailments jeopardize nearby pipelines, but also major rail construction activities. For example, in 2010, Cando Contracting Ltd., CN and Imperial Oil Ltd. entered into a joint venture and constructed a major 10-track rail yard plus a new siding next to two buried pipelines owned and operated by NOVA Chemicals in southwest Strathcona County near Edmonton. During the 5-month construction period, heavy equipment caused major vibration of the ground that could be felt over 200m away. The pipeline right-of-way is less than 30m from where the construction activity took place. Significant vibration that close to two major pipelines, one of which carries high-pressure ethylene, may have caused some damage to the pipelines.

June 15, 2012:

Transportation Safety Board Continues Call for Voice Recorders

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) has been unable to determine the exact cause of the derailment February 26, 2012 that killed 3 Via Rail engineers (Hamilton Spectator). (Via Rail travels primarily on track built and maintained by CN Rail.)

The TSB blames the uncertainty of its findings on the absence of a voice recorder to capture the final moments before the deadly crash. The call for voice recorders in train cabs has been made by the TSB since 2003. This year’s watchlist expands that recommendation to include video recordings. Unfortunately, Transport Canada has not acted on these important recommendations to help determine causes of train accidents and ultimately to improve overall rail safety.

March 3, 2012:

Other Major Derailments

As the number of recent derailments skyrockets, other major Canadian derailments in the past are being remembered. For example, CTV reports on 5 major derailments that involved deaths, injury and the evacuation of up to 218,000 people in one case. (For details see this CTV News coverage.)

March 3, 2012:

Judge Rules Against Imperial Oil

A Montana district court judge ruled against Imperial Oil and the Montana Department of Transportation by saying a more extensive environmental review is necessary of a plan by Imperial to ship oversize tar sands processing modules through the state. The decision went on to say approval of the Kearl Module Transportation Project without properly assessing impacts associated with the construction of turnouts is arbitrary, capricious and not in accordance with law (see Journal of Commerce article).

This latest decision is part of Imperial Oil’s continuing disregard for the environmental impacts of shipping massive tar sands processing modules along scenic highways in the United States. Modules are destined for Imperial’s Kearl tar sands project near Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Feb. 21, 2012:

Reasonable Railway Noise and Vibration

Check out Rail and Reason for an excellent analysis of what can be considered reasonable railway noise and vibration.

The modest train whistles that used to sound off in the distance and evoke positive thoughts in the “good old days” are gone. Today, excessively loud whistles and noisy idling locomotives right next to people’s homes deprive people of sleep and negatively affect their overall quality of life.

As railways and residential development expand, and the conflict between the two increases, is it not time for a new and more innovative approach to warning vehicle drivers at rail crossings? And, do locomotives really need to idle so long immediately adjacent to homes?

Jan. 19, 2012:

CN Derailment Near Prince George

On January 18, 2012, 11 CN cars loaded with lumber and pulp products derailed about 16km north of Prince George (see article). As is usual, a CN spokesperson refused to provide details and said the accident is under investigation.

Nov. 24, 2011:

Imperial Oil Downplays Diesel Spill

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo photo 2Sarnia Police were dispatched because roadways were unsafe for travel near Imperial Oil’s Sarnia plant. Diesel product leaked from the plant as a fine mist and drifted downwind (CBC News).

As is typical for Imperial Oil whenever there are any environmental infractions, a company public relations representative said there was nothing to worry about.

Oct. 20, 2011:

Imperial Oil Fined $10K for Violating Fishery Regulation

Imperial Oil was fined $10,000 after pleading guilty to fishing without a scientific license under the Fishery General Regulations. Fisheries and Oceans Canada launched an investigation September 16, 2010 after learning that fishing was being conducted on behalf of Imperial Oil Ltd. without a proper license. The offence occurred in Bosworth Creek near Norman Wells, Northwest Territories (Fisheries and Oceans news release).

Imperial Oil has a history of flaunting environmental legislation.

Sept. 20, 2011:

Imperial Oil Doesn’t Like Court Order

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo photo 2Imperial Oil does not like a court order handed down by a Montana judge that protects two-lane scenic byways in Montana from truck megaloads of tar sands processing equipment. The court order had been granted earlier in response to Missoula County, environmental groups and tourism operators opposing Imperial’s megaloads from negatively impacting the environment and significant tourism business along some of Montana’s most scenic roadways. This The Republic article indicates Imperial Oil is challenging the ruling in court.

If Imperial Oil would have had the tar sands processing modules built in Canada or the U.S. , rather than in Korea; and if Imperial would have first consulted with the communities along their proposed truck route, they wouldn’t be in the predicament they are now. Another case of Imperial Oil’s poor community relations record.

Aug. 28, 2011:

More Rail Impacts on More Communities

More communities across Canada are negatively affected by railway safety issues, derailments, diesel fumes, noise and vibration. See this Rail and Reason blog for details.

Aug. 24, 2011:

Railway Noise Affects Many Communities

This most recent Rail and Reason blog lists numerous communities in Canada that continue to be plagued by excessive railway noise, vibration or emissions.  Many of these communities have been trying to get relief for years, but CN and CP generally are reluctant to consider resident concerns.

Aug. 24, 2011:

Fuel Tanker on Fire in Rail Yard

The Mail Online reports thousands of northern California homes are at risk from a fire burning a rail car loaded with nearly 30,000 gallons of liquid propane. Firefighters are trying to prevent the propane from exploding.

Rail yards are ticking time bombs with respect to derailments, leaks, spills and many other accidents. This is why rail yards should be built in industrial areas – not near homes such as the rail yard built last year by Cando Contracting Ltd., CN and Imperial Oil right next to 2 homes and 2 wildlife conservation areas near Edmonton, Alberta.

Aug. 11, 2011:

Imperial Oil Keeps Nova Scotians in Dark

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo photo 2Imperial Oil has not been forthcoming in sharing information on why there have been gasoline shortages in Nova Scotia. This Nova News Now editorial finds it ironic that, while Imperial has not been providing information to the public on this matter, its website boasts about community engagement and the importance of building and maintaining strong relationships with stakeholders.

Check out Railroaded’s blogs and other “Latest News” stories for many other examples of Imperial Oil’s poor community relations record.

Aug. 10, 2011:

Imperial Oil “Buys” Certification

The Cold Lake Sun reports that Imperial Oil is being accused of buying its own award. Recently, Imperial is boasting that its efforts in animal preservation have earned it certification by the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) for their “Wildlife at Work ” program. ExxonMobil, Imperial’s parent company, funds the WHC, and Greenpeace indicates that’s why Imperial got the certification.

Aug. 10 & 11, 2011:

Imperial Oil Losing Megaloads Battle

Articles in the New West and Wildlife News indicate that Idaho and Montana residents appear to be winning the battle to keep megaloads of tar sands processing modules off their  pristine and scenic byways. Citizens’ action groups have successfully used the courts to stall and in some cases halt the trucking of processing modules up to Imperial Oil’s Kearl tar sands project in Alberta.

July 27, 2011:

CN Stock Prices Down

This Regina Leader Post article reports disappointing earnings for CN, with stock prices dropping 4.24%.

July 20, 2011:

No Repairs Planned to Crumbling CN Bridge

Railroaded CN logo oldMetro Moncton residents are concerned about a CN-owned bridge that is crumbling. Although concrete has been falling off the bridge, it is riddled with cracks, and water is leaking through it, CN says it is not planning on any repairs. See this Times and Transcript article.

(CN infrastructure is deteriorating across Canada at an alarming rate, whether it’s bridges, rotting railway ties, unsafe rail welds, or unstable rail beds.)

July 20, 2011:

Court Ruling Against Imperial Oil

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo photo 2The Missoulian reports that a District Court judge upheld a request by Missoula County and 3 conservation groups to stop Imperial Oil from hauling Alberta-bound  tar sands processing modules through western Montana. The decision was based on an inadequate environmental assessment by consultants hired by Imperial Oil.

July 19, 2011:

Strathcona Looks to Minimize Rail Noise

The Sherwood Park News reports that Strathcona County Council is evaluating the possibility of minimizing train whistles at some crossings in the County. Residents near some CN Railway crossings have complained about the loud whistles that are repeated several times each time a train passes.

(CN has also increased freight rail traffic along several of its lines in the County which adds to the frequency of whistles at crossings.)

July 19, 2011:

Imperial Oil Pipeline in Trouble

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo photo 2With Shell Canada pulling out of the proposed Mackenzie Gas Project, Imperial Oil is left with a decision by December 2013 of whether or not to proceed with the controversial project. See CJCD Mix 100 News coverage.

July 13, 2011:

CN Surprises Residents with More Noise

Residents in Tecumseh, Ontario have complained about increased rail noise because CN has recently begun using the local Via Rail tracks for freight without giving any warning to nearby communities. See CBC News.

July 11, 2011:

Imperial Oil Not Fair to Residents

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo photo 2This July 11 article in the Edmonton Journal indicates Imperial Oil’s continuing refusal to pay replacement costs in compensation for demolishing homes in Calmar, Alberta in order to properly abandon leaking gas wells located immediately adjacent to numerous residences.

Imperial Oil has a long history of poor communication and relations with residents and communities located adjacent to their projects and other activities.

July 9, 2011:

Atrocities by Imperial Oil’s Parent Company?

Imperial Oil’s parent company, ExxonMobil Corp., is being sued by Indonesian villagers who have accused the oil giant’s security forces of committing murder, torture and other atrocities. A U.S. appeals court decision describes how some plaintiffs’ family members were killed, while other plaintiffs were “beaten, burned, shocked with cattle prods, kicked and subjected to other forms of brutality and cruelty”, amounting to torture. See this Edmonton Journal article for details.

June 27, 2011:

Montana Concerned about Imperial Oil

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo photo 2Montana Governor, Brian Schweitzer, says so many people are opposed to Imperial Oil trucking their megaloads of bitumen processing modules through Montana because Imperial had the modules built in Korea rather than in Montana. The modules are destined for Imperial Oil’s  Kearl tar sands project near Fort McMurray, Alberta. See iNews 880 coverage.

June 24, 2011:

Another CN Derailment – Anzac, Alberta

Railroaded CN logo oldAn unknown chemical is leaking from CN rail cars derailed June 23, 2011, near Anzac south of Fort McMurray, Alberta. The Fort McMurray Fire Department, Environment Canada and Alberta Sustainable Resources were all at the scene. As is the case with all CN derailments, few details were provided by CN officials. See CHED News for details.

June 23, 2011:

More CN Rail Cars Derailed – Edmonton

Another CN train derailed, this time in Edmonton near 50th Street and the Yellowhead Freeway. Five cars went off the tracks in the early morning, June 23, 2011. See media coverage at i880 News, CTV News, Global TV, and CBC News. An ever-increasing number of CN trains are derailing due to top-heavy loading, too long trains, rotting rail ties, poor track welds, and human error.

June 13, 2011:

Health Risk Study Next to Rail Yard

The Press Telegram and KPCC Radio report that the UCLA and Loma Linda University will be conducting a health study of residents living near 4 rail yards in San Bernardino, Commerce and West Long Beach, California. Locomotive diesel soot is linked to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, cancer and asthma. The cancer rate in neighbourhoods next to the West Long Beach rail yard is 4,500 times higher than the federally acceptable rate.

May 24, 2011:

CN Derailment – Sarnia

The Observer reports a CN derailment of  6 tanker cars in Sarnia on May 22, 2011. The cars were carrying dangerous goods, and Sarnia Fire and Rescue Services were on the scene.

May 24, 2011:

CN Noise Plan – Chicago

The Chicago Daily Herald reports that $300,000 provided by CN to address noise abatement will be available to those residents within a 65-decibel noise contour of a CN rail line running through the Hawthorn Woods community. The noise issue has been ongoing in many Chicago communities since CN bought the EJ&E Railway in 2008, leading to significantly increased rail traffic and noise.

May 16, 2011:

Noisy CP Rail Yard in Calgary

Inglewood Community residents near Calgary’s Canadian Pacific Railway’s Alyth Yard continue to express concerns about the rail yard becoming a major locomotive engine testing site in 2010.  Residents can’t figure out why CP  moved its noisy locomotive repair services nearer to their community without any community consultation. See Yahoo News coverage.

May 8, 2011:

CN Derailment – Edmonton

CTV News reports another CN derailment, this time at the CN Clover Bar Yard in east Edmonton. Apparently, 4 freight cars jumped the tracks. As is the case with all of CN’s derailments, few details are available, and even if there are any, they are not shared with the public.

May 8, 2011

Berm No Help with CN Train Noise

This Standard Freeholder article reports that a berm built by a developer in Cornwall, Ontario not only did not decrease CN railway noise, but it apparently made it worse.

April 28 & 29, 2011:

Imperial Oil Spill and Leak

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo photo 2Imperial Oil spilled 2,500 barrels of crude bitumen emulsion at its Bourque Lake site near Cold Lake, Alberta. The well sprayed some of the oil onto the ice of a nearby lake which will create a challenge for required clean up. See Edmonton Journal and CBC News coverage.

As well, 3 ethylene releases escaped recently from Imperial Oil’s Sarnia operations. See this Sarnia Observer article.

April 27, 2011:

Ikea Sues CN Rail

This Winnipeg Free Press article reports that Ikea (Sweden’s furniture giant), Tuxedo Yards Development Corp., and Seasons (Winnipeg) JV Corp. are suing CN Rail for unspecified damages to the property where Ikea’s new store was to be built in Winnipeg. More specifically, the suit claims CN has refused to remove fill and materials it dumped on the property over several decades.

This is typical of CN Rail which has dumped and left piles of rail ties and other wood, gravel and fill piles, and many other materials along and adjacent to its thousands of kilometres of rail rights-of-way.

April 25, 2011:

CN Derailment Still Not Cleaned Up

Railroaded CN logo oldCN is still cleaning up following a derailment of more than 20 cars March 27 near Port Hope, Ontario. Ontario Environment officials stated 67,000 litres of spilled aviation fuel have been recovered, while 73,000 to 133,000 litres have made their way into the local environment including the water system. As with the many other CN derailments across North America, CN has not allowed the media near the vicinity of the spill to monitor clean up progress. See this Northumberland Today article.

April 25, 2011:

Another warning to CN

This Financial Post article and Consider This blog report on the repeated Transportation Safety Board of Canada warnings to CN, which appear to have no effect since CN’s safety record continues to worsen.

April 24, 2011:

CN Derailment – Prince George

250 News reported a derailed locomotive in the Prince George CN Yard which appeared to have crashed into adjacent cars that were full of coal.

April 23, 2011:

CPR Fuel Spill Seeping Out of Ground

CTV News reports that a 2,000-gallon diesel fuel spill in a Winnipeg CPR rail yard is seeping out of the ground 3 weeks following the original accident. (Fuel spills are common in rail yards.)

April 23 & 25, 2011:

Imperial Oil in Court

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo photo 2Opponents to Imperial Oil’s trucking of tar sands processing modules along U.S. Highway 12 will be testifying in court after Imperial’s first mishap-laden leg of its so-called “test validation” shipment left more than 1,300 homes and businesses without power for about 5 hours after the module clipped and snapped a support wire. See this Lewiston Morning Tribune and Associated Press article for details.

April 13, 2011:

CPR Idling Annoys Neighbours

Neighbours to a CPR rail yard in Port Coquitlam, B.C. are complaining about locomotives idling up to 4 hours up to 10 times per day near their homes. They are concerned about carcinogenic diesel fumes, noise and vibration that has cracked their foundation and floor tiles. See this Coquitlam Now article.

April 8, 2011:

Imperial Oil Deserves Opposition

This Edmonton Journal letter to the editor suggests it’s Imperial Oil’s own fault there is so much opposition to their megaloads of tar sands processing modules traveling along scenic highways in the United States. If only the corporation would have had the units built in Canada where they are to be used, local jobs would have been created and the units wouldn’t need to be shipped from South Korea, barged up to Lewiston, Idaho, and then trucked up to Alberta.

April 1-4, 2011:

Lawsuit Against Imperial Oil Megaloads

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo photo 2According to this Missoulian article and Edmonton Journal article, Missoula County, the National Wildlife Federation, Montana Environmental Information Center and the Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club filed suit to halt Imperial Oil’s transport of tar sands processing modules on the basis of insufficient environmental assessments. As well, the parties will be filing an injunction to stop the hauling until the lawsuit is settled. This Missoulian article reports that Imperial Oil CEO Bruce March admits the foreign construction and associated transport of the processing modules need to be “revisited”.

March 31, 2011:

Another CN Derailment and Spill

Ten CN cars derailed in the Winnipeg Symington Rail Yard, leaking gasoline into the yard. See this Winnipeg Free Press article. Rail yards are particularly prone to accidents, and pose hazards to nearby residents and businesses.

March 30, 2011:

Misuse of Funds Draws in Imperial Oil

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo photo 2A top advisor to Prime Minister Harper altered the mandate of a federally-funded initiative from a new environmental research partnership involving 3 Alberta universities, to an industry/government strategy to green the image of Alberta’s dirty tar sands. This Postmedia News article reports that the strategy included regular meetings and partnerships with Imperial Oil CEO Bruce March. A federal grant of $15 million was at the strategy’s disposal. The strategy also worked to delay government regulations that would crack down on tar sands development pollution.

March 28 & 29, 2011:

Imperial Oil Megaloads Still Challenged

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo in photoGroups will seek a court injunction to prevent Imperial Oil megaloads of tar sands processing modules destined for Alberta from being trucked across Montana. See this KULR-8 News report for details. This Missoulian article reports that Missoula County will be filing a lawsuit against the Montana Department of Transportation for insufficient analysis of the effects of Imperial Oil moving hundreds of oversized loads on Highways 12 and 200. Residents, recreationists, tourism operators and other businesses have been battling Imperial Oil for months.

March 27 & 28, 2011:

Significant CN Derailment – Ontario

Railroaded CN logo oldHomes were evacuated near Port Hope, Ontario after at least 20 CN cars derailed, spilling jet fuel and propane, and starting a fire. See articles in Toronto Star, Northumberland News, The Province, and Edmonton Journal for details. See this Railroaded posting for examples of many more recent CN derailments.

March 24, 2011:

Rail Concerns Across North America

Check out this excellent summary by Rail and Reason of rail concerns by communities across Canada and the United States.

March 21, 2011:

Government to Legislate Improved Service?

The federal government will be implementing recommendations of the Rail Freight Service Review which was established to address systemic concerns about poor service from customers of Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway. Customers have been losing millions of dollars in business due to consistently declining service by CN and CP. If service by the two rail companies doesn’t improve, the federal government has indicated it will pass legislation forcing the companies to improve their service. This is yet another example of the failure of Canada’s largest rail companies to take customer service seriously, and instead banking on their monopoly of the rail transportation industry.  See Financial Post article for details.

March 15, 2011:

U.S. Federal Court Rules Against CN

A U.S. Federal Court of Appeal decision will force CN to spend $68 million building 2 underpasses to mitigate traffic jams at Chicago-area railway crossings. See Chicago Business and U.S. Politics Today articles for details.

March 14, 2011:

CN Fined for Diesel Spill

On March 11, CN was sentenced to pay $75,000 for spilling diesel fuel into waters frequented by fish near the confluence of the Fraser River and Barker Creek in British Columbia. See Daily Commercial News article for details.

March 9, 2011:

Imperial Oil Continues to Anger Residents

Leaking abandoned gas wells owned by Imperial Oil right next to homes in Calmar, Alberta continue to anger residents. The local MLA has now become involved. See i880 News.

March 2, 2011:

Imperial Oil Under Fire for Chemical Leak

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo photo 2Imperial Oil is under fire for a February 24 chemical release at its Sarnia refinery. Human error caused a release of hydrocarbons into the air and a leak of diesel fuel on the ground. One worker was injured and local residents, schools and emergency officials are looking for answers from Imperial. Sarnia’s mayor is calling for a full review. See The Observer and GasBuddy articles.

Feb. 27, 2011:

CN Continues to Discriminate

CN is continuing its appeal against a human rights decision last fall that ordered CN to give an employee her job back. CN had fired the woman because she was unable to uproot her young family to move to Vancouver where CN had ordered her to be transferred.  See Edmonton Journal for details.

Feb. 26, 2011:

CN Derailment in Pine Pass, B.C.

Although details are sketchy, another CN train derailed, this time in the Pine Pass, B.C. The train was carrying propane cars. See Opinion 250 coverage.

Feb. 26, 2011:

Derailments Caused by Too Long Trains?

This Financial Post article discusses the concern by Transport Canada over the increasing length of CN and CP trains. They are concerned that these long trains may be behind the steady increase in derailments, especially by CN.

Feb. 26, 2011:

Barrington Continues to Fight CN

Barrington, Illinois has been fighting CN’s acquisition of EJ&E Railway since 2007. Opponents say the increase in freight traffic will cause gridlock at rail crossings, add air and noise pollution, and delay emergency vehicle response times. See this Barrington Patch article for details. Many other communities across the United States are fighting CN over similar acquisitions of smaller rail companies.

Feb. 26, 2011:

Imperial Oil Deceives Idaho Transportation

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo in photoFor months, Imperial Oil had been trying to convince the Idaho Transportation Department and the many critics of Imperial’s plans that they absolutely had to get the permits to truck 207 megaloads of tar sands processing modules up Idaho’s Scenic Byway (U.S. Hwy. 12). Suddenly, Imperial has figured out they can break up the big loads into twice the number of smaller loads which would permit them to truck the loads up Interstate 90 and other freeways. Critics charge Imperial with deceiving everyone into believing they could not break the big loads apart. See Edmonton Journal article.

Feb. 13, 2011:

CN Derailment – 36 Cars This Time

CN coal-carrying cars can’t seem to stay on the rails in this part of B.C.  The February 12 derailment of 36 coal cars in Fort Fraser follows one near Prince George July 21, 2010 and another one near McBride January 2, 2011. See Digital Journal article.

Feb. 10, 2011:

Rail Noise Concerns Albertans

The hamlet of Wildwood is seeking a CN railway crossing whistling exemption in response to concerns from residents. Strathcona County is also looking into mitigating noise caused by train whistles.

Feb. 7, 2011:

CN Derailment Spills Ammonia Nitrate

Another CN derailment today, this time in Mussey Township, St. Clair County, Michigan. Four cars have been reported derailed, and ammonia nitrate has spilled out of at least one of the cars. See this The Times Herald article.

Jan. 27, 2011:

Fighting Pollution at Los Angeles Rail Yards

As reported in this Fox News coverage, four rail yards in Commerce, East Los Angeles, produce more than 40 tons of pollutant emissions from diesel fuel every year. The California Air Resources Board concluded that residents living near the rail yards face a risk of developing cancer that is up to 180% greater than residents elsewhere.

Jan. 26 & 27, 2011:

Rail Yard Labeled “Diesel Death Zone”

Expansion plans for the West Long Beach Intermodal Container Transfer Facility are under attack by local residents and the Air Quality Management District for health impacts from the associated pollution. Studies have shown higher rates of asthma and other illnesses near the rail yard. Pollution and health impacts are so pronounced the rail yard is known as the “Diesel Death Zone”. See articles in the Press Telegram and the Long Beach Post.

Jan. 26, 2011:

CN Stock Continues Slide

As Canadian National Railway earnings miss forecasts, its stock continues to drop. See Ottawa Citizen article.

Jan. 25, 2011:

Imperial Largest Green House Gas Emitter

This Financial Post article reports that Imperial Oil’s Cold Lake, Alberta project is the largest of the in situ emitters of green house gas, producing 4,235,313 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions in 2009.

Jan. 22, 2011:

Calmar Residents Pressure Imperial Oil

Further to this ongoing battle by residents living right next to three abandoned leaking gas wells, residents have asked Imperial Oil and the Calmar Town Council to set up a fund to relocate people who want to move. See Edmonton Journal article.

Jan. 20, 2011:

CN’s Share Rating Cut

Raymond James Financial Inc. cut CN’s share rating. See article.

Jan. 18, 2011:

No to Shipping Oil by CN Railway

This Go Green post suggests that potentially striking CN workers push for better safety regulations to help reduce the growing number of CN derailments and spills. How can the public trust CN to ship oil or any other hazardous materials by rail with their current derailment and accident record?

Jan. 17, 2011:

Rail Yard Contaminates Aquifer

Clean up of a contaminated Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad rail yard site in New Mexico has been ongoing since the early 1990s. To date, more than 600,000 gallons of spilled diesel fuel have been recovered, and an estimated 1 million gallons of groundwater have been contaminated.  See Contaminated Nation posting.  Rail yards are notorious for petroleum and other toxic and hazardous chemical spills and leaks.

Jan. 15 & 26, 2011:

Fremont Doesn’t Want Rail Yard

The Fremont, California Mayor says that a planned Union Pacific rail yard is “terrible” and “Man, that really destroys a lot of plans or potential plans.” The City was envisioning a green technology jobs corridor with homes and an entertainment venue, but a new rail yard has put a quick end to those plans. See Oakland Tribune article. This San Francisco Business Times article reports that Fremont will ask federal authorities to help stop the rail yard development. Rail yards typically have significant noise, health, visual and property value impacts.

Jan. 13, 2011:

Imperial Oil Not Fair to Residents

Imperial Oil, which is buying out several homes in Calmar, Alberta because of leaking gas wells only a few feet from people’s homes, is not willing to pay one homeowner fair replacement costs. See Leduc Rep article.

Jan. 13 & 14, 2011:

Imperial Oil/Exxon/Mobil Not Popular

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo in photoThis Missoulian article reports that the tourism and recreation industries and local residents along Highway 12 through Montana and Idaho are not about to let Imperial Oil’s megaloads of tar sands processing modules roll through their communities without a fight. In this Missoulian article, the U.S. Forest Service clearly states that if Imperial Oil is permitted to truck their megaloads along the Scenic Byway, it may well clash with the Forest Service’s ability to uphold environmental, cultural and historical protective legislation.

Jan. 12, 2011:

Residents Don’t Want Rail Yard

Residents of Verdigris, Oklahoma fear a rail yard expansion near their neighborhoods will increase risk of chemical spills, lower their property values, increase noise and lighting, and encourage flooding. As is the case with the building of almost all new and expansion of existing rail yards, residents don’t believe that the proponents are interested in mitigating, or will be able to mitigate, their concerns. See Claremore Daily Progress article.

Jan. 7, 2011:

CN Derailment Spills Hydrochloric Acid

Railroaded CN logo oldA CN train that derailed Jan. 6 in Vernon Township, Michigan spilled hydrochloric acid, forcing nearby residents to evacuate their homes. At least one tank car with a capacity of 20,000 gallons was leaking and a cloud of gas was drifting away from the scene. Hydrochloric acid is toxic and can damage eyes, skin, lungs and other organs. See Washington Post, Argus-Press, and Canadian Press articles.

Jan. 5, 2011:

33 CN Cars Derail Near Tete-Jaune

Yet another CN accident, this time 33 coal cars derailed next to the Fraser River on their way to Prince Rupert. In this Rocky Mountain Goat article, a veteran CN employee said the derailment could have been caused by any number of rail defects.

Jan. 4, 2011:

Sell or Avoid Imperial Oil Stock

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo photo has just added Imperial Oil stock to its Rank #5 (Strong Sell) and strongly encourages investors to sell or avoid the stock. See this Finanz Nachrichten article for details. Imperial Oil’s reputation has taken a beating lately for many reasons including the company’s environmental and community relations track record.

Dec. 31, 2010:

Locomotive Emission Improvements

This Missoulian article describes the installation of Auxiliary Power Units in Montana Rail Link locomotives to reduce toxic exhaust emissions.

Dec. 30, 2010:

Imperial Oil Polluted Site

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo in photoImperial Oil, which is moving its petroleum tank cars in and out of a rail yard next to homes and two wildlife conservation areas near Edmonton, is a major partner in one of the United States’ most polluted sites. This Post Tribune article and Herald Argus article report on a $14.4 million agreement recently reached to finally clean up the former Cam-Or waste oil refinery site in Westville, Indiana which had been reprocessing waste oil from railroad yards, service stations and other industrial facilities. The U.S. Environmental  Protection Agency had shut down the refinery in 1987 due to carcinogenic benzene and heavy metals contaminating the local soils and groundwater.

Dec. 28, 2010 – Jan. 7, 2011:

More on $250,000 Fine to CN

Railroaded CN logo oldThis article reports that CN acknowledged as early as February 2009 that the U.S. Surface Transportation Board asked for data on all crossing blockages of 10 minutes or greater, but CN staff suggested that the data collection was not feasible.  This part of the STB’s decision record clearly indicates that CN intentionally under-reported the crossing blockage statistics, reporting only blockages by trains that were completely stopped. Rail and Reason weighs in on the decision and fine in this Dec. 23, 2010 posting and this Jan. 2, 2011 posting. This article indicates that some members of TRAC and the Will County Board think the fine is too lenient for the giant rail company.

Dec. 27, 2010:

Another CN Derailment – Wisconsin

See this article in the Chicago Tribune for details on another CN derailment, this time 11 freight cars derailed near the Neenah Rail Yard. Rail yards are particularly prone to derailments and other rail accidents.

Dec. 26, 2010:

New Rail Yard Restricts Development

The Mayor of North Charleston, South Carolina argues in this article that construction of a new rail yard will restrict the city’s plans for private development nearby. It is a well known fact that new railway and rail yard construction negatively affects nearby developments because of noise, vibration, visual, health, environmental and property value impacts.

Dec. 26, 2010:

Opposition to Imperial Oil Plans Grows

Opposition is growing to Imperial Oil’s plans to truck 207 megaloads of tar sands processing modules through Idaho’s Scenic Byway. See this Missoulian article for details.

Dec. 25, 2010:

New Lenox Drops CN Lawsuit

The Village of New Lenox, Illinois has agreed to drop its lawsuit against the Canadian National Railway (CN) in exchange for CN establishing quiet zones in the village, and financing safety improvements at  railway crossings and noise and visual mitigation work for residents living near the railroad tracks. See The Herald News article and Village of New Lenox.

Dec. 21 & 22, 2010:

CN Fined $250,000 for Violating Orders

Railroaded CN logo oldThe fine, which is the first ever imposed on a railroad by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, was issued to CN for knowingly under-reporting train blockages at railroad crossings. This article indicates CN knowingly violated the Board’s orders that CN report crossing blockage statistics on a monthly and quarterly basis.  This posting by The Regional Answer to Canadian National (TRAC) provides details of the court proceedings. This posting by U.S. Representative Judy Biggert indicates that CN had reported only 14 blocked crossings lasting 10 minutes or longer between November and December 2009, whereas the actual number was 1,457, over 100 times the reported number. This is but one more example of CN disregarding laws, orders and guidelines, and intentionally misreporting statistics to regulatory agencies in North America.

Dec. 20, 2010:

Homeowners Next to Rail Line Compensated

As part of construction of a new high-speed rail line in the U.K., homeowners whose properties are not required for the construction of the railway but who still face a drop in the value of their houses will be financially compensated.  In this article, the British Transport Secretary states that where a project imposes significant financial loss on individuals he believes it is right and proper that they should be compensated fairly for that loss. The Canadian federal government and CN could certainly learn from this approach – – there is currently no such compensation for homeowners in Canada even though thousands of Canadians suffer significant property devaluation when new rail lines and rail yards are built next to them.

Dec. 16 & 20, 2010:

Imperial Oil Has Unfinished Reparations

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo photo 2Although the National Energy Board has approved Imperial Oil’s application to build a 1,200-kilometre gas pipeline from the Beaufort Sea to northern Alberta, this article suggests the project is uneconomical. And even if the project were to go ahead, the environmental impacts would be significant as outlined in this letter to the Edmonton Journal. As well, Imperial Oil has some unfinished reparations to complete in the North as outlined in this CBC coverage of the company pushing aboriginal people off the land in 1920 to drill an oil well.

Dec. 16, 2010:

Rail and Reason Supports Railroaded

Read Rail and Reason’s latest posting in support of Strathcona County residents who want to shut down the recently built rail yard in their community.

Dec. 16, 2010:

Quiet Zone on Track

The Burlington North Santa Fe (BNSF) rail line, residents of Sealy Texas and their local government are working together to develop a “quiet zone” along the BNSF line through the city by installing some extra railroad cross arms and safety wayside horns. This is a great example of what’s possible when the concerns of residents about railway noise are taken seriously by their local government and a railway company. Read this Sealy News article.

Dec. 12, 2010:

Residents Accuse CN of Breaking Laws

See this article in the National Post and this coverage by Global TV for details on residents living next to a newly built rail yard near Edmonton accusing CN of violating federal laws.

Dec. 11, 2010:

Locomotive Diesel Exhaust is Carcinogenic

Rail and Reason presents some startling data that should give concern to anyone living next to rail yards and rail lines where locomotives idle or move slowly on a regular basis.  Be sure to read their well-researched article which provides helpful sources of information on this topic.

Dec. 10, 2010:

Residents Vow to Continue Rail Yard Fight

Strathcona County residents who live next to a rail yard just built by CN, Imperial Oil and Cando Contracting vow to continue to get this industrial facility shut down because it was built in the worst possible location. See Sherwood Park-Strathcona County News story here.

Dec. 10, 2010:

Another CN Derailment – Alabama

See this article for details of a CN derailment of about 10 cars in Prichard, Alabama. Several cars overturned.

Dec. 8, 2010:

CN Refuses to Address Squamish Concerns

CN has increased shunting activities and locomotive idling to the point where Squamish B.C. residents can’t sleep at night. Residents have signed a petition and the local Council has tried to help, but CN refuses to alter its nighttime activities. See Squamish Chief articles here, here, and here.

Dec. 6, 10, 12 & 15, 2010:

Imperial Oil in More Trouble

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo in photoImperial Oil, which has partnered to store petroleum rail cars in a contested rail yard near Edmonton, is now trying to cap gas well leaks in residents’ back yards in Calmar southwest of Edmonton. (Abandoned gas and oil wells are a growing health and environmental problem in Alberta.) Imperial also keeps pushing to truck megaloads of tar sands processing modules through sensitive and scenic areas in Idaho and Montana, while local residents and tourism operators fight legally to stop them. See Edmonton Journal articles herehere and here; Oregon Live coverage here; and Northern Rockies Rising Tide article here.

Dec. 3, 2010:

Railways Risky Way to Move Oil

In this letter to the Edmonton Journal, Railroaded points out that railways are no safer than pipelines in moving oil from Alberta to the West Coast, citing just a few of CN’s derailments as rationale.

Dec. 1, 2010:

Locomotive Emissions Regulations

Transport Canada launched a consultation process with stakeholders to develop emissions regulations for locomotives under the Railway Safety Act. See this Daily Commercial News article.

Nov. 30, 2010:

Railways Argue They’re Safer than Pipeline

In this article, CN and CP argue that they can move oil to the West Coast without the risk and controversy experienced by Enbridge Inc’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. Both rail companies downplay their abysmal (especially CN) derailment, spill and other accident records. Remember CN’s Wabamun Lake spill in 2005 that made international news? The Transportation Safety Board of Canada keeps rapping CN’s knuckles over safety breaches. Scroll down for just a few of the many news articles on CN’s derailments and spills.

Nov. 25, 2010:

CN Derailment Again at CN’s Scotford Yard

Another derailment occurred at CN’s Scotford Rail Yard near Fort Saskatchewan on November 21, a short 3 months following a major CN derailment in the same yard. This time 14 cars fell off the track. On August 18, 2010, 43 CN petroleum tank cars derailed in the same yard. See Fort Saskatchewan Record coverage here.

Nov. 24 & 26, 2010:

Railways and the Environment

Europe is serious about researching and acting on the environmental impacts of railway operations and infrastructure, as evidenced by the Railways and Environment Conference to be held in the Netherlands in December 2010, and the InfraGuidER EU FP7 Conference held in Brussels November 24, 2010. Considering the poor record of environmental impacts by railway companies in Canada, especially the Canadian National Railway, perhaps it’s time the Canadian federal government and Canadian railway companies take a more proactive approach in this regard. Who can forget the spill of toxic fuel oil and pole treating oil by CN into Wabamun Lake just west of Edmonton in 2005?

Nov. 21 & Dec. 2, 2010:

More CN Derailments – Sask. & B.C.

The latest of many CN derailments took place near Vibank, Saskatchewan; and Williams Lake, B.C.  See Regina Leader Post article and Black Press article.

Nov. 18, 2010:

CN Abandons Central Alberta

Central Alberta farmers, investors and local governments are trying to save a rail line on which CN has discontinued operations. Badlands Railway Company Ltd. which has tried unsuccessfully to purchase the line says in this article that CN insists on shutting down the rail line no matter what anybody does.

Nov. 17 & 28, 2010:

Stored Train Cars a Concern

This article in and this article in the Traverse City Record-Eagle provide other examples of the eyesore posed when rail cars are stored and the concerns local residents have about these storage yards attracting graffiti, gang activity and criminal activity.

Nov. 11 & 15, 2010:

Imperial Oil Snubs the Environment Again

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo photo 2Not only does Imperial Oil not care about storing over 200 of its petroleum tank rail cars right next to protected conservation areas and waterbodies in Strathcona County, Alberta, but they are also snubbing environmental regulations in the Beaufort Sea, Montana and Idaho. Imperial doesn’t want to follow the Canadian federal government requirement to have the capacity to drill a relief well in the same season as an initial exploration well, in order to ensure a blowout doesn’t spew crude oil under the Arctic ice over a long winter season. And, Imperial has already gone ahead with utility relocation work before Montana and Idaho complete environmental reviews of Imperial’s proposed trucking of massive tar sands processing modules through sensitive and scenic areas in these two states.  See Globe and Mail article and Great Falls Tribune article.

Nov. 11, 2010:

More Rail Yard Pollution

This article in illustrates another example of oil contamination in rail yards, and how it affects groundwater in the surrounding area.

Nov. 10 & 17 & Dec. 15, 2010:

CN Doesn’t Want Improved Services Laws

Railroaded CN logo oldThe Coalition of Rail Shippers, other companies and farm groups that rely on Canadian National Railway to move their goods are asking for the immediate enactment of new laws and penalties to ensure that poor rail services are improved and that CN is accountable for its performance. CN does not want any further regulation of the monopolies enjoyed by itself and CP because that would cut into company profits. See National Post coverage here, PortageOnline coverage here, and Machine Market Place coverage here.

Nov. 8, 2010:

Prime Minister Asked to Stop Rail Yard

Residents who are upset that many federal laws and regulations have been breached during construction and operation of a rail yard have asked Prime Minister Harper to intervene and ensure that federal railway laws are enforced:

Railroaded News Release November 8, 2010

Nov. 5, 2010:

Residents Sue over Rail Yard Pollution

A federal appeals court has ruled that residents in Livingston Montana can go ahead with their lawsuit against BNSF Railway Co. to pay for the cleanup of toxic fuels and solvents that have seeped into the soil and groundwater from a contaminated rail yard. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality had already successfully sued BNSF in 1988 over the same pollution matter. These are the same soil, surface water and groundwater concerns Strathcona County residents have about a rail yard recently completed near Edmonton, Alberta, particularly because the very same kinds of fuels and solvents are being used by Canadian National Railway and Cando Contracting as were used by BSNF. See Seattle Times article.

Oct. 30, 2010:

Federal Bill to Reduce Noise in Rail Yards

The Burnaby-New Westminster MP tabled a private member’s bill in the House of Commons that would prohibit railway companies from engaging in noisy rail yard activities between 10:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. See The Record coverage here.

Oct. 28 & Nov. 3, 2010:

Imperial Oil in Trouble Over Dead Ducks

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo photo 2Imperial Oil will be storing 225 petroleum tank rail cars in a rail yard under construction next to 2 wildlife conservation areas near Edmonton, Alberta. Imperial Oil, the second largest owner of Syncrude, is already in trouble after several hundred more ducks recently landed on one of Syncrude’s tailings ponds and died. And this was only 3 days after Imperial Oil and Syncrude’s other owners were ordered to pay over $3 million in fines for a similar incident in 2008 where over 1,600 ducks were killed landing on one of Syncrude’s tailings ponds. Syncrude’s shares have subsequently dropped in value.  See Calgary Herald article.

A recently released scientific study cited in this Fort McMurray Today article indicates that many more ducks have perished in these tailings ponds than has been reported by the tar sands companies.

Oct. 27-28 & Nov. 30, 2010:

Rail Yard Environmental Assessments

Normally, when new rail yards are built, or existing ones are expanded, environmental impact assessments are conducted to ensure that appropriate sites are selected and that the local environment is not needlessly damaged or harmed. See Long Beach Post article, South Pasadena Patch article, Kansas City Star article and Telegram article for such examples in the U.S.  However, in Canada, the federal government does not think environmental impact assessments in this regard are important or necessary, as is the case with a rail yard adjacent to 2 protected conservation areas near Edmonton. Cando Contracting is building a rail yard on CN right-of-way to store 225 petroleum tank cars owned by Imperial Oil…no environmental impact assessments were conducted.

Oct. 26, 2010:

CN Reneges on Noise & Safety Deal

CN is criticized for reneging on a deal to install sound barriers, safety fencing and other measures to mitigate its acquisition of a U.S. railroad. See Daily Herald coverage here.

Oct. 20 & 23 and Nov. 3, 2010:

Imperial Oil in More Hot Water

Railroaded Imperial Oil logo photo 2Imperial Oil, a partner in a rail yard being built next to 2 wildlife conservation areas near Edmonton, Alberta, has angered Idaho residents who have major concerns about Imperial Oil moving tar sands infrastructure through their scenic national forests and parks. This infrastructure is headed for Imperial Oil’s Kearl Tar Sands Project near Fort McMurray, Alberta. See Calgary Herald articleiStockAnalyst article and The Spokesman Review article.

Oct. 14, 2010:

County Sues Over Rail Yard

Montgomery County in Virginia has sued the state and Norfolk Southern Corp. railroad to prevent a rail yard from being built. The County argues in this article that the rail yard would be an industrial eyesore and poor fit in the rural countryside.

Oct. 11, 2010:

CN Dumps Diesel Fuel

About 3,000 gallons of diesel fuel leaked from a CN locomotive in New Haven. See Voice News coverage here.

Oct. 7-28 , 2010:

More Criticism of CN Derailments

Railroaded CN logo oldThe Transportation Safety Board of Canada again criticized Canadian National Railway. According to the agency, 9 of 10 recent derailments across Canada involve CN trains, and can be blamed on improper and unsafe marshalling practices since 2000. Another CN train carrying dangerous liquids derailed October 8, 2010 in Ontario. See Vancouver Sun article, Cottage Country Now article and article.

Oct. 7, 2010:

Rail Yards Turn into Dumps

When rail yards are built in communities, they change the entire complexion of the communities by creating health, noise, visual, property devaluation and environmental impacts.  They also often become dumping grounds for garbage such as in this Massachusetts rail yard described here.

Oct. 3, 2010:

CN Derailment Northwest of Edmonton

Another CN train derailed in Alberta. This time it was a mile-and-a-half long train with 3 locomotives and 162 cars that derailed October 2, 2010 on its way from Edmonton to Fort McMurray. See Edmonton Journal article.

Oct. 1, 2010:

Five Injured in CN Crash in Minnesota

Five railway workers were injured in a head-on collision between two CN trains in Brimson, Minnesota. Coverage provided in this article.

Sept. 30 & Oct. 30, 2010:

CN Forced to Join 21st Century

Railroaded CN logo oldThe Canadian Human Rights Commission ruled against the Canadian National Railway firing 3 women 5 years ago for refusing to accept transfers to Vancouver for family reasons. CN senior managers’ actions were ruled to be wilful and reckless. CN is appealing the ruling because it does not think that it should take family issues into account when moving staff.  See Edmonton Journal coverage here and here.

Aug. 26, 2010:

More Faulty CN Tank Cars

The Transportation Safety Board warns of potential disasters similar to the Wabamun train wreck in 2005 where CN was fined $1.4 million and payed millions more in clean up costs and compensation. See Edmonton Journal article.

Aug. 19, 2010:

Concerns About Rail Yard Derailments

Residents living next to a joint Cando/CN/ Imperial Oil rail yard under construction issued the following news release expressing their concerns about possible derailments of petroleum tank cars to be stored right next to their homes and conservation areas:

Railroaded News Release August 19, 2010

Aug. 18, 19 & 20, 2010:

CN Rail Yard Derailment – Ft. Saskatchewan

Railroaded CN logo old43 CN tank cars carrying diesel and liquified petroleum gas derailed August 18 at CN’s Scotford Rail Yard. This is not that far north of another rail yard currently under construction in Strathcona County by Cando Contracting Ltd. on CN right-of-way to store 225 Imperial Oil petroleum tanker cars. Rail yards are particularly prone to accidents. For details of the August 18 derailment, see photos at our “CN Aug 2010 Derailment Photos” link and see Sherwood Park News article, CBC News coverage and Edmonton Journal article.

Aug. 1, 2010:

More CN Wildfires

See this article for details on a water bomber that crashed fighting CN-caused wildfires in B.C.

July 28, 2010:

Support from Rail and Reason

Rail and Reason outlined its support of Strathcona County residents who are concerned about the Cando rail yard being built in their backyards. See this article titled “No Can Do” on their website.

July 27, 2010:

Landowners Write Federal Ministers

After researching federal legislation, railway operating rules, and CN’s own environmental and proximity policies, local landowners next to the Cando rail yard under construction sent a letter to federal Ministers John Baird, Rob Merrifield and Jim Prentice, alleging many violations. On the basis of these breaches, they ask the Ministers to stop construction of the rail yard, and call for a federal inquiry. See details in this Sherwood Park News article.

July 23, 2010:

Kamloops Fire Started by CN Engine

An investigator is confident that a CN engine in a rail yard ignited a large grass fire on the Tk’emlups First Nation Reserve. Last summer, the City of Kamloops billed CN for $20,000 for firefighting when a train ignited a 3-day blaze. These are just a few recent examples of the many fires caused annually by CN in Canada. Idling and slow-moving locomotives, such as in rail yards, pose particularly high fire hazards. See story in the following Kamloops Daily News article and BC Daily Buzz coverage.

July 22, 2010:

CN and Cando Contracting in Breach of Laws

Landowners who live next to an industrial rail yard contend that CN and Cando Contracting Ltd. are in breach of several federal laws, regulations, operating rules and guidelines. See this Edmonton Sun article.

July 22, 2010:

Inappropriate Location for Cando Rail Yard

CN’s own proximity policy indicates that rail yards should not be built within 300 metres of homes. Two landowners who live only 68 metres and 163 metres from a site where Cando Contracting Ltd. and CN are building a rail yard discuss their concerns during a City TV News interview about noise, contamination of surface water by leaking petroleum products, and impacts on their quality of life.

July 21, 2010:

Rail Yard in Breach of Laws, Rules, Policies

Bretona Community residents issued the following news release pointing out the many breaches of federal legislation, railway operating rules, guidelines and policies by proponents of an industrial rail yard:

Railroaded News Release July 21, 2010

July 8 & 9, 2010:

Rail Yards Could be Built Anywhere

This Access TV Primetime feature includes a discussion of how it appears that CN or any other railway company in Canada can build a rail yard anywhere along an existing rail line without having to follow federal, provincial or municipal legislative approvals regarding environmental impact assessment or adjacent landowner notification. Albertans’ property rights and environmental impacts of rail yards are discussed. Proponents of the project could not have found a worse location to build an industrial rail yard.

July 8, 2010:

Why Destroy the Natural Environment?

A writer to the Edmonton Journal letters to the editor wonders in this letter why an industrial rail yard is being built in the middle of a natural area, agricultural land and residences, when Imperial Oil Ltd. and CN already have plenty of industrial, contaminated sites available.

July 5, 2010:

Cando Rail Yard Project an “Abomination”

Strathcona County Councillor Alan Dunn called the Cando rail yard project an “abomination”. He said it’s an industrial yard being inserted in the middle of a country-residential and agricultural area without any consideration of the surrounding area whatsoever. One family located right next to the rail yard is concerned that their private conservation area that they set aside for wildlife in 1989 will be negatively impacted by leaks and spills from locomotives and 225 petroleum tanker cars at the rail yard. The rail yard site drains into their neighbour’s farm dugout and from there into their conservation area. They are also concerned about all the noise from shunting, coupling and uncoupling of tanker cars, and how that will affect local wildlife and residents. Residents say that wider rights-of-way at certain intervals along CN’s railway were historically used for railway stations and grain elevators which were necessary services to local farmers; however, this industrial rail yard is a service to only Imperial Oil Ltd. and Cando Contracting Ltd., and not to local residents. In fact local residents get stuck with the noise, the pollution, the health issues, visual impacts, and property devaluation. See front-page Edmonton Journal coverage here.

July 4 & 5, 2010:

Residents Try to Stop Rail Yard Construction

Watch this Global TV News coverage of local residents’ challenges in trying to stop construction of an industrial rail yard by Cando and CN near their homes and 2 nature preserves.

July 2, 2010:

Local Landowners Not Notified

Landowners whose homes are located only 68 metres and 163 metres from a rail yard being built on CN land were not notified by CN, Cando Contracting Ltd., Imperial Oil Ltd. or the County of Strathcona. Residents are furious that an industrial project of such magnitude (225 petroleum tanker cars) can be built right next to them without the proponents having to contact them as the adjacent landowners. The County of Strathcona had been aware of the proposed project for almost a year, but did not bother to contact adjacent landowners. The rail yard is also less than 30 metres from 2 protected natural areas. Based on other misinformation and misleading information provided by Cando Contracting Ltd. and CN, residents are very skeptical that the petroleum tanker cars will be empty before they are stored here, as suggested by the proponents. Residents are concerned about impacts on the 2 natural areas, noise and property devaluation.  They are also worried about health effects of locomotive diesel exhaust which is 5.5 times more carcinogenic than diesel exhaust from trucks. See Sherwood Park News article.

June 24, 2010:

Rail Yard Plans Next to Conservation Areas

Residents living right next to a proposed rail yard issued the following news release indicating that Cando Contracting, CN and Imperial Oil did not notify adjacent landowners about their plans to build a large industrial facility right next to their homes and 2 protected conservation areas:

Railroaded News Release June 24, 2010

June 23, 2010:

Cando Rail Yard Threatens Wildlife

A short month after local residents found out by accident about a proposed rail yard planned for their neighbourhood, Cando Contracting Ltd. commenced construction activities. On June 21, 2010, tree fellers, bulldozers, and back hoes started tearing up a little wetland situated next to an existing CN rail line. The industrial rail yard consisting of a siding plus ten 915m-long tracks for storing 225 petroleum tanker cars owned by Imperial Oil Ltd. threatens 2 protected natural areas and wildlife located right next to the rail yard site. A local landowner who donated 100 acres of his family’s land to wildlife conservation says the rail yard will change the whole Bretona area from an agricultural, natural environment and recreational community into an industrial area. See CBC News coverage.

Various Dates:

Rail Yard Accidents & Injuries

The following articles and websites indicate just how common accidents and injuries are at rail yards. The rail yard under construction in the Bretona Community just east of Edmonton is an accident waiting to happen:

April 28, 2010:

CN Under Fire Over Crossing Accidents

U.S. federal regulators and investigators grilled Canadian National Railway Executives, and a lawyer for several accident victims says CN has a history of communication problems that have resulted in serious railway crossing accidents and injuries. See Fox Chicago News coverage and a legal article.

March 31, 2010:

CN Derailment Near Pickering, Ontario

Local residents were concerned about the sixth derailment in as many years along a section of track running from Whitby to Pickering. This is of particular concern to Canadians living next to railways, considering that 12% of all rail traffic carries dangerous goods, according to the Railway Association of Canada. See Toronto Star coverage.

May 23, 2009:

Fire at CN Yard – Edmonton

A fire broke out at the CN Walker Yard in north Edmonton. Oil, grease and solvents drip and leak all over rail yards from locomotives and rail cars, and are flammable. For details of this fire see Edmonton Sun coverage here.

July 7, 2008:

CN’s Safety Record Under Attack

This article, which cites CN’s abysmal safety record, indicates that the majority of CN’s collisions and derailments take place in rail yards.

Aug. 4, 2007:

Prince George CN Yard Collision & Fire

A fire started after a train derailed and collided with another train in the CN yard near Prince George, B.C. Gasoline leaked into the Fraser River. Rail yards are particularly prone to accidents. See CBC News coverage.

Aug. 4, 2007:

High Number of CN Derailments

In this article, CN discussed the high number of track derailments annually in relation to a major derailment that decimated the Cheakamus River salmon population near Squamish, B.C. in 2005.

May 31, 2007:

CN Accepts Responsibility for Chisholm Fire

CN accepted responsibility for starting one of Alberta’s largest human-caused fires May 23, 2001, that destroyed 116,000 hectares of forest and nine homes in the hamlet of Chisholm. See Edmonton Journal article.

May 10, 2007:

CN Rail Draws Fire for Rash of Derailments

Corporate-responsibility advocates and environmentalists are calling for CN to improve its operating and business practices following a review of the federal Railway Safety Act.  CN’s terrible safety record is damaging customer and shareholder confidence. See Business Edge coverage here.

Aug. 3, 2005 & Other Dates:

Massive CN Toxic Spill at Lake Wabamun

Railroaded CN logo oldOn August 3, 2005, 43 Canadian National (CN) cars derailed at Lake Wabamun west of Edmonton, Alberta, spilling 1.3 million litres of heavy bunker C fuel oil that quickly spread across the lake. 100 Lake Wabamun residents blockaded the CN tracks for 5 hours to protest insufficient action by CN to contain or clean up the spill. Oil-slicked birds and other wildlife plus the oil-soaked lake shoreline became instant national news.  Four days later, CN revealed that 700,000 litres of Imperial Pole Treating Oil had also spilled into the lake. This hazardous chemical contained naphthalene and other polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that are highly toxic and linked to cancer. In May 2009, CN plead guilty to 3 charges related to the oil spill. The way CN mishandled this major spill does not instill much confidence as to how they might handle a spill from stored petroleum tanker cars at the rail yard currently under construction at the old Bretona Railway Station site in Strathcona County, Alberta: Scroll down to “Oil spill”.

April 8, 2005:

CN Derailment at Scotford Rail Yard – 8 Cars

Hydrogen peroxide leaked out of an overturned tank car when 8 cars derailed at CN’s Scotford Rail Yard. See Fort Saskatchewan Record article.

Sept. 26, 2002:

CN Petroleum Tanker Cars Derail – Kill Two

In December 1999, the CN Ultratrain, a petroleum products unit train linking the Saint-Romuald oil refinery with a petroleum depot in Montreal, exploded when it derailed and collided with a freight train, killing two people.  The train derailed at a broken rail caused by a defective weld, causing the Transportation Safety Board of Canada to call into question CN’s quality assurance program for rail welds. Residents are similarly concerned about Imperial Oil petroleum tanker cars being hauled to and from a rail yard currently under construction in Strathcona County, Alberta, by Cando Contracting Ltd. See story in Transportation Safety Board of Canada communique.

Feb. 8, 1986:

Hinton CN Train Collision – 23 Killed

Railroaded CN logo oldOne of the most lethal Canadian rail disasters occurred near Hinton, Alberta, and involved a collision between a Canadian National Railway freight train and a VIA Rail passenger train, resulting in 23 deaths. A Commission of Inquiry suggested several human errors at the root of the accident, and investigations revealed serious flaws in CN’s employee practices. See story here.

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