Transport Canada has issued an emergency directive to increase rail safety following the crash of an oil-bearing train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. The new measures call for dangerous goods on a main track to be attended to at all times and for increased protection against unauthorized entry into trains, among other measures.
The derailment of the train, which occurred on July 6, killed more than 45 people. The cause of the crash is still unknown, and investigators are trying to determine if any safety regulations were violated before the crash.
Effective immediately, railroads will also now have to ensure no fewer than two employees operate a train carrying dangerous goods. Directional controls also have to be removed from unattended locomotives. Regarding breaking mechanisms, special operating instructions for hand brakes have to be attached to cars that will be left unattended for more than an hour, and automatic and independent brakes have to be fully applied when the train is left unattended.
“The safety of Canadians is Transport Canada’s top priority,” it said in a statement. “The department is committed to working with the rail industry to examining any other means of improving rail safety.”
Transport Canada’s safety changes enhance safety advisories released Friday by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. The board found that insufficient breaking force was applied before the accident. It also asked Transport Canada to review the guidelines for leaving trains carrying dangerous goods unattended on the track.
In the U.S., the Federal Railroad Administration has been looking into the increased transportation of dangerous goods on American railroads. The organization is conducting additional safety inspections of railroads transporting crude oil out of the Bakken region through the Rail Accident Mitigation Project. The FRA is also involved in training shippers and other related parties on how to safety handle hazardous materials.
“To the extent that increased rail and truck traffic poses an increased risk of collision at highway-rail crossings, we are working with stakeholders, participating agencies, local officials and rail carriers on grade crossing safety and trespass prevention,” according to the organization. “Our efforts include working with law enforcement to increase patrols at grade crossings and expanding educational outreach to increase awareness about grade crossing safety.”
According to reports, the Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Administration started looking at bolstering rail safety regulations for hazardous goods in early 2012. It was to have presented its findings in October. - Jon Ross