Repost from The Wall Street Journal
Track May Have Played Role in Canadian Oil-Train Derailments
Transportation Safety Board concerned about state of rails in the Gogama regionByPaul VieiraPaul Vieira, March 17, 2015 5:51 p.m. ET
OTTAWA—Canadian investigators said the state of the train tracks in the part of northern Ontario where two oil trains operated by Canadian National Railway Co. derailed recently in separate incidents may have played a part in the accidents.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said the second incident, which occurred near Gogama, Ontario, earlier this month, ignited a fireball that led to the destruction of a steel bridge.
It also said Canada’s latest move to toughen standards for railcars carrying crude, unveiled last week after the second derailment in northern Ontario, is promising, but it expressed concerns about the speed at which they will come into effect.
‘Petroleum crude-oil unit trains transporting heavily-loaded tank cars will tend to impart higher than usual forces to the track infrastructure during their operation.’
The state of the track in the Gogama region, about 120 miles north of mining center Sudbury, Ontario, was of such concern to the safety board that the agency said it sent a letter to Canada’s Transport Department asking officials take a closer look at the rail infrastructure to determine whether further risk-mitigation measures were required, given the increased popularity of shipping crude oil by rail.
“Petroleum crude-oil unit trains transporting heavily-loaded tank cars will tend to impart higher than usual forces to the track infrastructure during their operation. These higher forces expose any weaknesses that may be present in the track structure, making the track more susceptible to failure,” the board said.
A spokesman for Montreal-based Canadian National said the company is cooperating with investigators and wants to identify “any measures that must be taken to protect the public and the environment.” Meanwhile, the railroad said it has boosted inspection procedures on this northern Ontario rail corridor.
A representative for Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said the government has asked the railroad to report to officials about concerns raised to date over the March 7 derailment. The spokesman added Ms. Raitt has encouraged lawmakers to call Canadian National executives before a parliamentary committee to testify about rail safety.
The March derailment in northern Ontario involved 39 cars, the safety board said, and caused a fire that burned until March 10. There were no reported injuries.
The incident followed a derailment of another crude-carrying train on Feb. 14. That incident also caused a fire but no injuries.
These incidents were part of a larger number of recent oil train derailments in North America, in which new and sturdier tanker cars being built to carry a rising tide of crude across the continent failed to prevent ruptures.