2nd derailment in two months near Guernsey, Sask. raises maintenance questions

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WATCH: Guernsey, Sask., was evacuated after a CP train derailed on Thursday morning. – Feb 6, 2020

Thursday morning’s Canadian Pacific Railway train derailment is the second one to have left the tracks near Guernsey, Sask., in less than two months.

Thirty-one of the 104 cars derailed on Feb. 6 east of the community, with a dozen catching fire.

READ MORE: Guernsey, Sask. evacuated after CP freight train derailment

It was a similar situation on Dec. 9, 2019, when 33 oil tank cars and a hopper car jumped the rails west of Guernsey, less than 10 kilometres away from Thursday’s derailment.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) said 19 cars lost its entire load in the December derailment, releasing roughly 1.5 million litres of crude oil. The spill became engulfed in fire, which burned for approximately 24 hours.

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The agency continues to investigate both derailments. It has released preliminary information about the December incident, but not the cause.

A rail expert says he would be shocked if the entire track in this zone isn’t visually examined closely by Canadian Pacific after the most recent derailment.

“It could be a cracked track. It could be one where the track is lifted off the ground so it’s not flat. It might be a joint — a weld is broken. These can be inspected relatively easily,” said Garland Chow, professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia.

He said weather can also play a factor and that the freezing and unfreezing of tracks could play a role in the derailment.

Environment Canada said there was snow in the area on Wednesday night and into Thursday morning.

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READ MORE: 1.5 million litres of crude oil spilled in Saskatchewan CP Rail train derailment

Chow says there are simple ways to detect if something is not up to par.

“For example, sending vibrations or electrical pulses through the track. If the track is cracked or separated in any place, of course the electrical current will stop,” he explained.

The federal government is planning on taking a closer look at the issue, starting with speed restrictions on trains hauling dangerous goods.

“That is why I’ve put in place a ministerial order which is going to reduce the speed of trains carrying dangerous goods for the next 30 days as we examine why these derailments are happening,” said Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau.

The transportation minister’s order says trains with 20 or more cars carrying dangerous goods will be restricted to speeds of 40 kilometres per hour or less.

It was set to be introduced on Friday, but the federal government is asking for it to be adopted immediately.

The train in the first derailment near Guernsey was travelling at 70 kilometres an hour when it derailed. Train speed has not yet been released in the second derailment.

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READ MORE: Speed limits for trains carrying dangerous goods lowered in wake of Saskatchewan derailment

One local resident believes track maintenance could be an issue.

“For the last five, six months all you see are rail crews working on the tracks,” Josh Kondraczynski said.

“So they spent all this time working on the tracks and now there’s two derailments.”

Blaine Weber also believes there are maintenance issues involved in the derailments.

“I think there’s some questions (that) should be asked as to maintenance programs, maybe the quality of the rails or why we’ve had significant accidents in this area. It’s so close together and with a hazardous material,” said Weber, a resident of nearby Lanigan.

CP Rail has not responded to questions from Global News regarding track maintenance in the area.

Guernsey is roughly 115 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon.

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