Quebec residents in the dark about rising crude oil shipments by rail

ABOVE: Part 1: Oil by rail through Montreal
It’s been 18 months since the tragic train derailment in Lac Megantic and people living near the train tracks in Montreal are worried it could happen again. Tim Sargeant has more.

MONTREAL — City officials in Montreal are starting to receive details on the sky-rocketing amount of crude oil that’s being shipped by rail across the island of Montreal but the public isn’t privy to the information.

READ MOREWould oilsands’ crude pipeline benefit Quebec? 

The civil security director is using the details to better prepare the fire department and other emergency response teams to deal with a potential derailment or oil spill disaster.

Louise Bradette has information provided by CN and CP Rail on the volume and type of dangerous goods shipped by rail for 2013 and is waiting for the 2014 details.

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But Bradette prefers to have the information sent in real time similar to what’s done in Europe.

READ MOREExtracting info: Why’s it so hard to get the goods on oil spills?

“That would be a good thing to have in Canada in the future,” she told Global News.

While details aren’t released publicly by city officials, Transport Canada and the rail companies are providing a good illustration of the sky-rocketing increase in oil shipments by rail.

The most recent statistics show more than 10 million tonnes of crude oil criss-crossed the country in 2013 on almost 128,000 rail cars. Only 8,000 tonnes was carried by 144 rail cars in 2009.

And CN Rail is preparing to carry 150,000 car loads of crude oil this year — double the amount in 2013.

READ MORE: Energy East no boon for Eastern Canadian refineries

“What would happen if it derailed. That would be the whole village. That would be it. Gone,” Diane Hodges, a Pointe-Claire resident said, describing what she imagined might happen to the Valois village.

Many cities and towns in the greater Montreal were built around rail road tracks, and it’s not uncommon to find homes and businesses within one hundred feet of rail road tracks.

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But following the 2013 Lac-Megantic disaster that killed 47 people when 73 rail cars carrying light crude exploded in the small town, many people are concerned about rail cars carrying the inflammable product.

READ MORE: Oil by rail: Pipeline delays mean more oil trekked by train – how safe is it?

The dramatic increase of rail cars filled with crude oil has some taking matters into their own hands.

The mayor of Vaudreuil-Dorion has installed a sign requesting locomotive engineers to slow down as the oil cars travel through his city.

“As long as the train will not reduce the speed, I will worry every night when I go to bed,” Guy Pilon said from his city hall office.

“Because I never know when I’m going to receive a call telling me the train in the region just failed.”

READ MORECrude oil spills are bigger from trains than pipelines

The sky-rocketing increase in crude oil transports by rail has reignited the debate on whether it should be shipped by pipelines instead.

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