TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian government would like to finalize specifications for a new version of the tank cars used to transport crude oil by rail by the end of this month, Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said on Tuesday.
In the wake of several high-profile accidents involving trains carrying crude oil, Canada and the United States are drafting tougher standards that will see see the vast majority of tank cars currently in use retrofitted or replaced.
Transport Canada last month released implementation deadlines that would keep some cars in service for another decade until 2025, even though accident investigators have said they perform poorly in crashes.
Asked whether that timeline could change, Raitt said: "Everything is still under consideration."
On Monday, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said a 10-year deadline was "excessively long" and recommended a more aggressive schedule. The U.S. Department of Transportation has yet to announce its timeline.
"Those are the kinds of comments that we're looking for," Raitt said of the NTSB’s recommendations, adding that she recently met with the chair of Canada's Transportation Safety Board (TSB).
The TSB, an independent federal agency, said last month that it was concerned about Transport Canada's 10-year timeline.
The minister said industry needs clarity on what the final standard will be.
"We've just got to assimilate a little bit more information, talk to the U.S., and then come out with it," she said. "I would really like to be able to deal with this in April."
Separately, Raitt said she was waiting on results of a full inspection of Canadian National Railway Co's Ruel subdivision in Northern Ontario, where three trains derailed in February and March.
"If there are any breaches of the Railway Safety Act, I can assure you that we would be seeking prosecution," she said.
"TSB gave early results saying it looks like a rail break, and if that's the case, CN really should be working on their infrastructure."
CN spokesman Mark Hallman said the railway took immediate steps to address potential rail-related problems in the area after the accidents and communicated its plan to the government.
"CN will continue to meet its responsibilities under the Railway Safety Act," he said.
Raitt said she welcomed the fact that the railway has reduced the speed of its trains in the area while investigating the accidents.
With additional reporting by Solarina Ho; Writing by Jeffrey Hodgson; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Alan Raybould