Canada does bad job of overseeing rail safety -official watchdog

Tue Nov 26, 2013 10:46am EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA Nov 26 (Reuters) - The government in Canada, where 47 people died in a tanker train disaster in July, is doing a bad job of overseeing rail safety, an official watchdog said on Tuesday.

The damning report, from Auditor-General Michael Ferguson, revealed a series of problems at the federal transport ministry, which is supposed to check that the 31 railways it oversees have effective safety management systems.

There was not enough focus on high-risk railroads or "the most significant safety risks" and there were weaknesses in collecting data and auditing railroads, the report said.

Ferguson, who examines government spending and performance, completed his audit on June 28, soon before a train carrying fuel oil derailed and exploded in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic on July 6.

Extending the period of the audit to include Lac-Megantic would have delayed the report by at least two years while safety officials probe the accident, Ferguson's staff said.

"Transport Canada needs to address significant weaknesses in its oversight of safety management systems," Ferguson said, adding it was taking too long to resolve significant safety issues.

"Transport Canada does not have the assurance it needs that federal railways have implemented adequate and effective safety management systems."

Safety systems that the railways were told to introduce in 2001 to cut down on the risk of accidents include safety policies, risk control strategies and training.   Continued...