UPDATE 2-Quebec crash probe to transform rail sector, official says

Fri Jul 12, 2013 5:37pm EDT
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By Richard Valdmanis and Phil Wahba

LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec, July 12 (Reuters) - The train derailment that demolished the heart of a small Canadian town last weekend will likely spur tougher regulations for rail-car hand brakes, tanker cars and possibly train crew size, according to one of the lead investigators of the crash.

"I am confident that this will be an investigation that changes the industry," Canadian Transportation Safety Board (TSB) investigator Glen Pilon told Reuters by phone on Friday.

The TSB makes safety recommendations to Transport Canada, the federal government department that regulates the railway industry. Analysts said the disaster, viewed as the worst rail accident in North America in 24 years, is almost certainly going to lead to new regulations that could add to the cost of transporting oil by rail, a burgeoning business in both the United States and Canada.

Police estimate 50 people were killed when the runaway train of oil tanker cars jumped the tracks at the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, and erupted into a wall of fire shortly after 1 a.m. (0500 GMT) on Saturday.

The train - operated by the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) - had been parked uphill from Lac-Megantic in the neighboring municipality of Nantes.

MMA Chairman Edward Burkhardt has said he believes the train's sole engineer did not apply enough hand brakes to keep the train in place after its air brakes failed. Burkhardt said he had been told that 11 hand brakes were set, but he could not verify that number. The engineer could not be reached for comment.

Pilon said the TSB was looking closely at whether the engineer set a sufficient number of hand brakes. The engineer spent roughly 30 minutes securing the train before leaving to stay the night at a local hotel.   Continued...