Canada transport minister says spate of CN Rail accidents no fluke

Wed Mar 25, 2015 4:40pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren and Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Three Canadian National Railway Co derailments in the same area in three weeks, two of them involving oil trains, cannot be explained away as a fluke of nature, Canada's transport minister said Wednesday, adding she is satisfied for now with steps CN has taken to prevent another accident.

CN Rail oil trains came off the tracks and caught fire near the small northern Ontario town of Gogama on both Feb. 14 and March 7. A third train hauling empty cars derailed in the same area on March 5.

"I'm concerned about it ... three in a row is significant," Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said in an interview in her parliamentary office. "There must be reasons behind it. It cannot just be a fluke of nature."

An initial Transportation Safety Board of Canada probe said track faults could be responsible for all three accidents.

Raitt said the transport ministry - which regulates railways in Canada - has inspected "every single inch of that rail" along the 300-mile (485 km) stretch in question and is analyzing the data.

"They are going to make sure that if they find anything that they will utilize the tools they have, which includes prosecution under the Railway Safety Act," she said.

In response to the accidents, CN Rail has reduced the speed of trains in the area and boosted its own inspections. Raitt said she was satisfied with the railway's response "for now".

Raitt also said her officials would consult academic experts about the risk assessments that CN Rail has done on its tracks "to say 'Are we missing something here?'"   Continued...

Canada's Transport Minister Lisa Raitt speaks during an interview with Reuters in Ottawa March 25, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie