New Safety Measures Needed After Canada Oil Train Crash

By Frederic Tomesco and Greg Quinn | August 19, 2014

Canada must take a greater role to improve rail safety and demand railroads put measures in place to prevent runaway trains such as the one that destroyed the downtown of Lac-Megantic, Quebec last year, the Transportation Safety Board said.

In its 181-page report, the board found 18 causes that contributed to the accident — including a “weak” safety culture at Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway Ltd.; “poor” training of employees; tank cars that didn’t offer enough protection, and not enough safety audits by the government’s transportation department.

On July 6, 2013, an unattended train operated by Montreal, Maine & Atlantic careened downhill into Lac-Megantic, jumped the tracks and exploded, destroying dozens of buildings, including a bar filled with patrons. The tragedy has already resulted in tougher rules for transporting crude oil on rail lines in Canada and the U.S.

The agency made two new recommendations in today’s final report. Besides railways taking more steps to ensure trains don’t runaway, the government needs to take “a more hands-on role” on rail safety, said Wendy Tadros, the Transportation Safety Board’s chairman, at a press conference in Lac-Megantic.

“It’s not enough for a company to have a safety management system on paper,” Tadros said. The best way to ensure these systems work “is for Transport Canada to audit railway SMS, to audit them in sufficient depth, and with sufficient frequency, to be sure that safety systems are effective.”

Dangerous Goods

“Right now, Transport Canada is relying on the rules and they still allow a train carrying dangerous goods to be left unattended, on a descending grade,” Tadros said.

About 6 million liters (1.5 million gallons) of crude spilled from the damaged rail cars, Quebec’s environment ministry said in May.

The board said in its report that “all older Class 111 tank cars must not transport flammable liquids, and a more robust tank car standard with enhanced protection must be set for North America.”

Shares of companies that manufacture railway cars rose. American Railcar Industries Inc. gained 2.6 percent at 11:34 a.m. in New York, while Trinity Industries Inc. rose 3.6 percent to $47.

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