DAILY NEWS Jul 23, 2013 3:41 PM – 0 comments
New freight train safety rules announced as Lac Mégantic, Quebec crash investigation continues
Within a week of receiving advisory letters on railway safety from the Transportation Safety Board, Transport Canada has issued emergency directives prohibiting all rail operators from leaving locomotives unattended when they are attached to tank cars on main tracks.
The directive comes as the investigation continues into the July 6 Lac Mégantic Quebec disaster, in which more than 40 died after a train with 72 crude oil tankers cars derailed and several exploded.
Effective immediately, all railway operators in Canada must ensure that “no locomotive attached to one or more loaded tank cars transporting dangerous goods is operated with fewer than two qualified persons on a main track or sidings,” Transport Canada stated in a press release Tuesday.
Last Friday, TSB announced it had sent two urgent advisory letters to Transport Canada as a result of its ongoing investigation into the Lac Megantic tragedy.
TSB is an independent agency that reports through the Privy Council to Parliament. Its mandate includes investigations into incidents involving railways, aircraft and pipelines.
In a July 19 letter to Transport Canada, TSB stated its investigation into the Lac Megantic crash determined that the operating plan of Montreal Maine & Atlantic “was to leave the train on the main track, unattended …” uphill from Lac Megantic, near the U.S. border about 100 kilometres east of Sherbrooke.
“Given the importance to the safe movement of dangerous goods and the vulnerability of unattended equipment, TC may wish to consider reviewing all railway operating procedures to ensure that trains carrying DGs are not left unattended on the main track,” TSB stated in one of two letters it sent on Friday.
On Tuesday, Transport Canada said its emergency directive requires railway operators, within five days of the issue of the directive, to ensure “all unattended controlling locomotives on a main track and sidings are protected from unauthorized entry into the cab.”
It also requires that directional controls are removed from any unattended locomotives on main tracks or sidings to prevent them from moving forward or backward.
Other requirements of the directive mandate that railway companies:
- Ensure that their special instructions on hand brakes are applied to any locomotive attached to one or more cars that is left unattended for more than one hour on a main track or sidings; and
- Ensure that automatic brakes are set “in full service position and the independent brake is fully applied for any locomotive attached to one or more cars that are left unattended for one hour or less on a main track or sidings.”
TSB records indicate that on July 5, the MMA train with the oil tanker cars had been stopped near Nantes before midnight. Local firefighters responded to a call shortly before midnight. The firefighters and an MMA employee left at about midnight. At about 1:00 a.m., the train started to move down a 1.2% grade into Lac Megantic, picked up speed and 63 tanker cars derailed. The subsequent explosions and fires destroyed much of the surrounding property and resulted in the evacuation of at least 2,000, TSB noted.
At press time, published reports indicated the remains of 42 victims had been found and five others who are still missing are presumed to have died.
Photo courtesy of the Canadian Red Cross