Canada oil train crash report finds new safety steps needed
FREDERIC TOMESCO and GREG QUINN
LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec (Bloomberg) -- 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 & 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. In April, Transport Canada issued a directive “removing the least crash-resistant DOT-111 tank cars from dangerous goods service.”
Canada’s Transportation Safety Board made two new recommendations in its final report. Besides railways taking more steps to ensure trains don’t run away, the government needs to take “a more hands-on role” on rail safety, said Wendy Tadros, the 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.”
Canada is “in the process of implementing each and every recommendation that has been made by the Transportation Safety Board,” Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said at a televised press conference in Ottawa, adding that she instructed the department to “quickly develop concrete actions to address” the board’s recommendations.
About 6 million liters (1.5 million gallons) of crude spilled from the damaged rail cars, Quebec’s environment ministry said in May.
“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 in Lac-Megantic.
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.”
John Giles, CEO of Central Maine & Quebec Railway, didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the TSB’s report. Montreal, Maine & Atlantic changed its name to Central Maine & Quebec after the assets were acquired by a unit of Fortress Investment Group LLC.
The Railway Association of Canada is studying the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s report, the Ottawa-based lobby group said in a statement.
“We will learn from this report, and will work to ensure that we fulfill our commitment to safety,” Michael Bourque, the association’s president, said in the statement.
Shares of companies that manufacture railway cars rose. American Railcar Industries Inc. gained 2.1% to $80.77 at 12:15 p.m. in New York, while Trinity Industries Inc. rose 3.62% to $46.81.