Canada toughens train brake rules, to impose 'audit blitz'

Wed Oct 29, 2014 11:59am EDT
 
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By Richard Valdmanis

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada has issued an emergency order to railways detailing how many handbrakes they must set on unattended trains to prevent deadly runaways, and will hire new staff to conduct an "audit blitz" of rail companies' safety systems.

The changes are the latest in a slew of regulatory moves in North America since a train carrying crude oil crashed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, last year, killing 47 people and highlighting the dangers from a surge in oil transport by rail.

The announcement on Wednesday came in response to the Canadian Transportation Safety Board's final report in August on the Lac-Megantic crash that found shortfalls in railway safety culture and federal oversight of the industry.

"We will always remember what happened in Lac-Megantic. I do believe that the measures that we are announcing today will improve railway safety, and make the transportation industry more accountable," Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said.

Canada's Conservative government has already imposed several new regulations in the wake of Lac-Megantic, including toughening tank car safety and requiring railways do risk assessments, produce emergency response plans, and improve the security of parked trains.

As part of the new rules, Transport Canada said railway operators had to test the handbrakes they set and use other "physical structures" to complement them.

(Details of the announcement: here)

In the Lac-Megantic crash, a train laden with light crude as volatile as gasoline had been left unattended on a main line several kilometers up a gentle slope. Investigators said the conductor had not set enough handbrakes and the airbrakes had been released after a fire broke out in the engine.   Continued...

 
A firefighter stands close to the remains of a train wreckage in Lac Megantic in this file photo from July 8, 2013.  REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger/Files