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Transport Canada issues emergency directive to increase rail safety following Lac-Mégantic disaster

Transport Canada announced an emergency directive pursuant to section 33 of the Railway Safety Act to increase rail safety. Although the cause of the accident in Lac-Mégantic remains unknown at this time, the agency said, it is moving forward to build upon the safety advisories received last week from the Transportation Safety Board.

Effective immediately, the emergency directive requires all rail operators to:

  1. 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;

  2. Ensure that no locomotive attached to one or more loaded tank cars transporting dangerous goods is left unattended on a main track;

  3. Ensure, within five days of the issuance of the directive, that all unattended controlling locomotives on a main track and sidings are protected from unauthorized entry into the cab;

  4. Ensure the directional controls, commonly known as reversers, are removed from any unattended locomotives, preventing them from moving forward or backward, on a main track or sidings;

  5. Ensure that their company’s 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

  6. Ensure that, in addition to complying with their company’s special instructions on hand brakes referred to in the item immediately above, the automatic brake is 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.

Transport Canada inspectors will continue to work in cooperation with the Transportation Safety Board as it conducts its investigation. Transport Canada inspectors are at Lac-Mégantic determining whether there has been non-compliance with regulatory requirements.

Transportation Safety Board findings. On 19 July, The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) issued two urgent Safety Advisory Letters to Transport Canada (TC) in relation to its ongoing investigation into the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) petroleum crude oil unit train derailment on 6 July 2013 in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. The derailment resulted in a devastating fire and explosions that killed an estimated 47 people and spilled some 1.5 million gallons of oil.

The first safety advisory letter pertained to the securement of equipment and trains left unattended. The TSB investigation determined that the braking force applied was insufficient to hold the train on the 1.2% descending slope, and is asking TC to review the Canadian Rail Operating Rules (CROR) 112 [Securing Equipment] and the related railway special instructions to ensure that equipment and trains left unattended are properly secured in order to prevent unintended movements.

The second letter concerned the securement of trains carrying dangerous goods. Given the importance of the safe movement of dangerous goods and the vulnerability of unattended equipment, the TSB asked TC to review all railway operating procedures to ensure that trains carrying dangerous goods are not left unattended on a main track.

Work on the investigation to date.

  • The TSB has downloaded key information from the locomotive event recorder and the sense and braking unit and the work is ongoing.

  • TSB investigators inspected the tracks, and conducted a site survey, photogrammetry and videography to determine track grade and position, and this information will be used for future calculations and computer modeling.

  • Investigators have conducted mechanical inspections and photographed 22 tank cars to date to document accident damage. Sample pieces of the tank cars are also being sent to the TSB laboratory in Ottawa for further metallurgical analysis.

  • The TSB is conducting 3D laser imaging with the assistance of the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to record three-dimensional data of the accident scene and different pieces of the wreckage. The scanner will be used to create full-color still images and assist in computer modeling.

  • Samples were taken of the products inside selected tank cars to determine their exact properties. Shipping documents and train journals are being reviewed to ensure the information is accurate.

  • Investigators have conducted numerous interviews. They have interviewed the locomotive engineer and other employees from MMA, first responders such as firefighters, and officials from TC, among others. Under the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act, all interviews are protected information and will not be publicly released.

  • TSB has collected data from Transport Canada in order to examine regulatory oversight. This will include aspects such as inspections and train operations (one-man crews), as well as MMA’s safety management systems to determine if there are any deficiencies that need attention.


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