March 9, 2015 / 2:43 PM / 4 years ago

Series of train derailments worries Canada transport minister

(Reuters) - A series of train derailments in northern Ontario is cause for concern for Canada’s transport minister, a spokesman said on Monday, as fires continued to burn where a Canadian National Railway Co train carrying oil went off the tracks on the weekend.

Smoke rises from fires caused by the derailment of a CN Railway train carrying crude oil near the northern Ontario community of Gogama, Ontario in this March 7, 2015 handout photo obtained by Reuters from Transport Safety Board of Canada (TSBCanada) March 9, 2015. REUTERS/TSBCanada/Handout via Reuters

The fiery crash was the third incident along the same section of CN track in less than a month, and the second in which crude oil from Alberta spilled and burned near the small town of Gogama, Ontario.

“The minister is very concerned with the number of incidents that have taken place in this area,” spokesman Zach Segal said in an emailed statement.

The Canadian government has made a number of regulatory changes since 2013, when a runaway train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic, killing 47 people, but derailments have continued.

There have been calls for slower speeds.

“Obviously it’s a public relations disaster,” said S&P Capital IQ analyst Jim Corridore. “In the long term, they’re creating a real risk to the entire rail industry of decreased train speeds.”

Strict speed limits could slow not just crude shipments, but all freight that travels along North America’s rail network, reducing capacity and cutting into railways’ earnings.

Regulators in Canada and the United States are working on a new standard for tank cars, meant to improve on existing designs that have performed poorly in crude oil derailments. In February, Canadian media reported that they could be ready in the spring.

Shortly after the previous fiery derailment near Gogama, Canada’s Transportation Safety Board said the incident showed the need for safer tank cars.

Safety board spokesman John Cottreau said the train in this weekend’s derailment had been traveling at 43 miles per hour at the time of the accident, under the speed limit in the area.

CN Rail said it expects to have a temporary bypass around the site within 48 hours, but could not yet say when normal service would resume.

Reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Peter Galloway

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