Canada's big railways review safety rules after train disaster

Thu Jul 18, 2013 3:04pm EDT
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By Solarina Ho and Julie Gordon

(Reuters) - Canada's two big railroads are reviewing safety standards after the deadly train crash on July 6 that killed some 50 people and destroyed the center of a small Quebec town.

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd, Canada's No. 2 operator, said on Thursday it has already made some changes to its operating rules. It will no longer park unattended trains hauling hazardous materials on main lines, and is bringing in tougher rules on setting the brakes that hold a stationary train in place.

The runaway train that smashed into the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, had been parked on a main line after the engineer, its only crew member, finished his shift.

The train, operated by the Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA), rolled down the track, gained speed, and derailed in the center of the lakeside town, with some of the 72 oil tanker cars it was hauling exploding into a wall of fire.

Investigators say the way in which the train's crucial hand brakes were set is one focus of their probe.

"The recent situation gave us a chance to thoroughly review our safety procedures, as we do on an ongoing basis," CP Rail spokesman Ed Greenberg said in a statement.

"We have now strengthened our operating procedures in some key areas that were identified from what recently occurred."

Canadian National Railway Co, the country's biggest railroad, has also started reviewing its policy for securing trains to strengthen its safety protocols, spokesman Mark Hallman said. It expects to complete the review shortly.   Continued...

An emergency worker stands on the site of the train wreck in Lac Megantic, July 16, 2013. REUTERS/Ryan Remiorz/Pool