Canada watchdog wants tougher safety rules for trains

Tue Jun 11, 2013 2:10pm EDT
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By Peter N Henderson

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian railways should bring in automatic braking systems and video recording devices to help prevent accidents like a fatal 2012 passenger train derailment, the country's transportation watchdog said on Tuesday.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada's proposals would apply to both passenger and freight travel, bringing railways in line with air travel, where flight recorders and automatic pilot systems have long been required.

The new rules would also bring Canada's railway regulations closer to those of the United States, where a 2008 overhaul means nearly all rail lines must introduce automatic control systems by the end of 2015.

The board's recommendations came in its report on the 2012 accident, which killed three engineers and injured 45 passengers.

The board said the train was traveling more than four times the rated speed for the track near Toronto where the accident took place, and engineers apparently ignored or misunderstood track signals that told them to slow down.

"Missed signals are a real risk," Wendy Tadros, chair of the Transportation Safety Board, told a news conference. "Every day, hundreds of freight trains encounter thousands of signals all over Canada. Those trains carry chemicals. Flammable liquids. And more and more oil."

Canada has limited passenger rail service, but railways carry more than 310 million tonnes (1 tonne = 1.102 tons) of freight a year including ever-larger volumes of crude oil. Oil accounts for around 5 percent of total rail traffic in Canada, National Bank research analysts say.

In May, a train spilled 575 barrels of crude oil onto the Saskatchewan prairie after it derailed.   Continued...

Police officers watch a train pass in a subway station in Montreal, May 10, 2012. REUTERS/Olivier Jean