Transportation Safety Board calls for immediate rail policy changes

Above: Donald Ross, the TSB investigator in charge of the investigation into the Lac-Megantic disaster, briefs the media on the latest in the ongoing investigation. 

MONTREAL – The Transportation Safety Board is calling for two immediate changes in rail policy in the wake of the Lac-Megantic catastrophe.

The agency isn’t waiting for the results of its multi-month investigation, which has just begun, to make the recommendations.

It has sent Transport Canada two safety advisories asking for changes: first, that dangerous goods not be left unattended on a main track and, also, that rail equipment be properly secured.

“As this accident has demonstrated, accidents involving trains carrying dangerous goods can have tragic consequences,” said the TSB in one of its letters to the government.

“Given the importance to the safe movement of dangerous goods and the vulnerability of unattended equipment, (Transport Canada) may wish to consider reviewing all railway operating procedures to ensure that trains carrying DGs (dangerous goods) are not left unattended on the main track.”

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In its other letter, the safety board urged a revision of the Canadian Rail Operating Rule No. 112 governing the securement of parked trains.

It says Rule 112 is not specific enough because it does not spell out how many handbrakes to apply for various weights and types of cargo. It also says that the standard, so-called “push-pull test” does not always accurately show whether the brakes have been adequately applied.

A TSB official also told a news conference in Lac-Megantic that it’s clear that insufficient brake force was applied before a train went slamming into the town on July 6.

He says there could be different reasons for that – it could be mechanical problems with the handbrakes, or a problem with the way someone applied them.

Almost two weeks ago, an unmanned train belonging to the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic railway carrying 72 cars of crude oil slammed into the heart of Lac-Megantic, setting off massive explosions that are believed to have killed as many as 50 people.

A spokesman for the agency says it’s had a closer look at 25 tanker cars since gaining access to the blast site two days ago – and has taken pictures and samples.

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The TSB has also inspected the track between the blast site and Nantes, where the train had been parked.

It has met numerous witnesses – including the train conductor, railway company officials and firefighters who were on site.

The TSB says that while the investigation is expected to take quite some time, it won’t wait to send safety warnings.

The agency says it also took part in a Quebec provincial police briefing with victims’ families and is trying to get information to them as quickly as possible as their investigation progresses.

Watch: Lac-Megantic could be worst train disaster in Canadian history: TSB

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