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Canada

CN suspends practice of laying materials between railway tracks

After two similar accidents involving steel railway tie plates, one near Brighton, Ont. - the common practice has been suspended on all railways where there is passenger train traffic.

Correction: This article originally said that the issue at hand was loose rail ties left between the tracks, but in fact, it was loose rail tie plates. On one occasion the article said that the material was left on the track, but it was indeed left between the track. The article has been changed to reflect that.

CN Rail has confirmed to Global News that they have suspended the practice of laying out material between the rails in preparation for track work on railways with passenger traffic.

This comes after the Transportation Safety Board of Canada highlighted a possible safety concern, where two trains struck loose railway tie plates that ripped through fuel tanks and seriously injured one employee.

CN have also launched an investigation in collaboration with VIA Rail and promises to implement appropriate corrective measures based on the findings of the investigations.

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READ MORE: Via Rail train ‘struck by debris’ near Trenton

On Feb. 2, a Via Rail train travelling from Toronto towards Ottawa was struck by then unknown-debris outside of Brighton, Ont., causing a significant fuel leak and damage to windows on both the train and a truck parked nearby.

All the passengers had to be removed from the train and were brought to their destinations by alternate means, according to VIA Rail.

WATCH: ‘It could have easily derailed’: Via Rail insider on train accident near Debert, N.S.

‘It could have easily derailed’: VIA Rail insider on train accident near Debert, N.S.
‘It could have easily derailed’: VIA Rail insider on train accident near Debert, N.S.

The findings of an investigation conducted by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada were published on March 25 in a rail safety advisory letter. The federal agency says in the letter that the debris that caused the damage on Feb. 2, were steel rail tie plates, each weighing 27 pounds, left between the tracks by employees.

According to the safety board, the steel plates were placed between the tracks so they could be installed the next day.

READ MORE: Canadian railway accidents went from 1,091 to 1,170 last year, beating the 5-year average: TSB

On Feb. 2, the federal agency said that the Via Rail train struck the steel tie plates while travelling 150 km/h. The steel material then sliced through a fuel tank, causing a spill of 1,600 gallons of diesel, and a rail tie plate also was projected through the back window of a nearby truck, striking an engineer who sustained serious injuries.

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Damage due to a tie plate entering a CN hi-rail vehicle through the back window on Feb. 2, 2019.
Damage due to a tie plate entering a CN hi-rail vehicle through the back window on Feb. 2, 2019. Transportation and Safety Board of Canada/CN

In the Brighton incident, the loose rail tie plates also broke brakes and cut open the bottom of the train.

In a statement from the Teamsters Union, who represent CN workers says that leaving material like this between the rails “is common practice.”

A similar incident happened in New Brunswick on March 20, where tie plates left between the rails damaged two locomotives. The damage included broken windows, a punctured fuel tank and lacerations on the bottom of the train. No one was injured in this incident.

“This is normally a safe practice. It is bizarre and troubling that it should lead to two accidents in just under two months.”