Tag Archives: Transport Canada

Canada proposes tough new oil tank standards after string of crashes

Repost from CTV News

Canada to propose tougher oil tank standards after a string of crashes

Rob Gillies and Joan Lowy, March 12, 2015 1:22AM EDT              
CN Rail derailment
A CN Rail train derailment near Gogama, Ont., is shown in a Sunday, March 8, 2015 handout photo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / HO – Glenn Thibeault)

TORONTO — The Canadian government has proposed tough new standards for rail tank cars used to transport crude oil in response to a string of fiery crashes. The proposal, posted online Wednesday by Transport Canada, would require the cars to have outer “jackets,” a layer of thermal protection, and thicker steel walls.

The requirements are tougher than the oil industry wanted. But the proposal doesn’t include electronically controlled brakes that automatically stop train cars at the same time instead of sequentially, which are opposed by freight railroads. Regulators said they will take that issue up separately

Final regulations are expected by mid-May. U.S. officials have been working closely with Canada on the regulations and the White House is reviewing a draft proposal.

There have been four oil train derailments in the U.S. and Canada since mid-February. A runaway oil train derailed in Lac-Megantic Quebec in 2013, killing 47 people.A U.S. Transportation Department analysis predicts that trains hauling crude oil or ethanol will derail an average of 10 times a year over the next two decades, causing more than $4 billion in damage and possibly killing hundreds of people if an accident happens in a densely populated part of the U.S.

New standards were enacted after Lac Megantic, but safety officials on both sides of the border called for even stronger measures after fiery derailments continued to happen despite the new tank cars standards.

The newest standard calls for a hull thickness of 9/16th of an inch, up from 7/17th of an inch and makes thermal jackets mandatory.

“The proposed requirements are still subject to final approval,” said Zach Segal, a spokesman for Transport Minister Lisa Raitt. “We are working to have this done in an expedited manner.”

Segal said Transport Canada is working in collaboration with the U.S and “wants this done and published as soon as possible.?” Segal said Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet will have final approval.

The Transport Canada proposal is a “pretty clear indication” of what final regulations are likely to look like, said Ed Hamberger, president of the Association of American Railroads.

“These are important protections to both help mitigate the potential for rupture of a tank car, as well as limiting the severity of an incident,” he said.

The oil and rail industries want thinner tank walls — half an inch thick, instead of the 9/16ths-inch that regulators propose. The thicker the shell, the less oil a tank car can hold, and with about a half-million carloads of crude hauled by rail in the U.S. and Canada last year, the cost difference could add up.

The tank cars in the recent accidents were built to a voluntary standard written by industry representatives in 2011 to answer criticism that cars used to transport flammable liquids were prone to rupture in an accident and spill their contents and ignite spectacular fires. But most recent accidents show that the newer cars — known as 1232s — also are prone to rupture, even at slow speeds. Trains involved in four recent accidents were travelling under 40 mph (64 kph).

The White House budget office is reviewing a draft proposal for a sturdier tank car design, as well as other safety proposals. U.S. and Canadian officials have been working closely together to co-ordinate the regulations since the tank cars move back and forth across the border. Railroads and shippers have said if there were separate regulations in each country it could cause significant shipping delays and raise costs.

The railroad association and officials from CSX, Norfolk Southern and Burlington Northern-Santa Fe argued against requiring the electronically controlled brakes in a meeting with White House officials last week, according to a document posted online by the government. They say the government has underestimated the cost of equipping tank cars with the brakes and overestimated the safety benefits. Railroads complain that electronically controlled brakes would cost them $12 billion to $21 billion.

The oil industry has rapidly moved to using trains to transport oil, in part because of oil booms in North Dakota’s Bakken region and Alberta’s oil sands, and because of a lack of pipelines.

Please share!

Transportation Safety Board of Canada adds new demands to emergency directive

Repost from The Wall Street Journal
Editor: This story is also covered in railway-technology.com and The Globe and Mail.  – RS]

Canada’s TSB Concerned Railway Safety ‘Remains Inadequate’

Transportation Safety Agency Concerned Over Ottawa’s Oversight of Railway Companies

By Judy McKinnon, Jan. 28, 2015

Canada’s transportation safety agency said Wednesday it is concerned that Ottawa’s oversight of railway companies remains inadequate, while noting that measures now in place would significantly reduce the risk of runaway trains.

Last year, the agency recommended several measures to strengthen rail safety after a 2013 oil-train derailment in Quebec killed 47 people and devastated the small town of Lac-Mégantic.

“While recognizing significant positive action taken by the regulator, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada remains concerned about Transport Canada’s response to outstanding recommendations,” the agency said Wednesday.

Transport Canada is the Canadian federal ministry responsible for rail transportation.

The TSB said it is specifically concerned the ministry hasn’t yet put in place an effective oversight process “that guarantees all railways will be audited in sufficient breadth and frequency to ensure safety issues are addressed in a timely manner.”

Canadian Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt said the ministry has taken action to boost oversight. “As part of our response to the Transportation Safety Board, Transport Canada will be conducting full (safety management systems) audits of federally regulated railway companies on a three-to-five-year cycle,” Ms. Raitt’s spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

In August, the TSB cited 18 factors for the Lac-Mégantic disaster, including a weak safety culture at the train’s operator—Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway Ltd.—and lax regulatory oversight. The derailment sharply raised concerns about the growing transportation of crude by rail and was followed by a number of other fiery but non-deadly accidents.

Among the TSB’s recommendations was that Transport Canada audit the safety management systems of all railways on a regular basis to confirm that safety measures are in place, and more measures to secure trains.

Transport Canada hasn’t yet shown that an effective oversight regime has been implemented, which could lead to a lag in identifying safety issues, the TSB said Wednesday.

As for preventing runaway trains, the agency said it is satisfied that Transport Canada has introduced “multiple layers” of defenses that, if fully implemented, will significantly reduce risks.

“The Minister of Transport and the department have taken strong action to improve rail safety in the wake of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, but more work needs to be done,” the safety agency said.

Last year, the TSB found that the 72-car train derailed after being left unattended and improperly secured on a descending grade despite indications there were mechanical problems with the lead locomotive. The agency said then that the now-defunct railway didn’t properly train and oversee its crews and lacked fully functioning safety-management processes.

“As we have always said, and as the Transportation Safety Board report clearly indicates, this was a case where rules were not followed,” Ms. Raitt’s spokeswoman said Wednesday.

—Nirmala Menon contributed to this article.
Please share!

Newly elected mayor of Toronto says he wants oil trains out of his city

Repost from rabble.ca

Newly elected mayor of Toronto says he wants oil trains out of his city

By Roger Annis | December 6, 2014

Newly elected mayor of Toronto says he wants oil trains out of his cityThe Toronto Star has a front page story on Dec. 5 saying newly elected  mayor John Tory wants trains carrying oil and other dangerous cargos through his city to be rerouted through less populated areas. Pretty big news, even if the conservative mayor is an unlikely candidate to carry this fight very far. Indeed, the Star says the mayor was “unavailable” for follow-up comment after delivering his one-off pronouncement on the matter.

Such rerouting would cost billions of dollars in new railway construction. Also, those communities upon which new, dangerous cargo rail lines would be imposed might, just maybe, say ‘no thanks’.

The Star also reports that the rail companies and Transport Canada are continuing to stonewall munipalities (and provinces?) over the release of studies of risk assessments of the movement of dangerous cargos. It writes:

In Toronto, the CP rail line runs through the city along Dupont St., while Canadian National’s line runs across the northern GTA, roughly parallel to Highway 407. Residents in downtown neighborhoods where trains carrying dangerous goods frequently travel have been clamoring for more information since the July 2013 Lac-Mégantic train derailment disaster, which killed 47 people. But neither Transport Canada nor the rail companies will provide the details they want, saying the information is commercially sensitive.”

The newspaper writes further:

Under an April 2014 emergency directive, rail companies must conduct a risk evaluation on every route that carries 10,000 or more tankers bearing dangerous goods per year, along with trains holding 20 or more carloads of dangerous goods.

A Transport Canada spokeswoman told the Star the risk assessments are reviewed by the federal regulator, but are not made public because the information still belongs to the rail companies and the documents “contain sensitive commercial information.”

The railways are sticking to their guns that they will only meet their supposed requirement to provide dangerous cargo information to municipalities on condition that the latter sign confidentiality agreements. CN says 360 municipalities, including Toronto, have signed on. Only one has refused–Windsor, Ontario. (It’s not clear from the Star report if the numbers are for Ontario or for all of Canada.) The Star writes:

Windsor Fire Chief Bruce Montone said he has yet to be authorized by city council to sign the document due to the last clause, which stipulates that the individual signing the agreement agrees that if they violate the agreement, CN can seek an immediate injunction in court.

“We would be giving up our inalienable right under the Charter to argue our case. That’s the piece that’s difficult,” he said. “We acknowledge that they can take injunctive action, and we won’t disagree with that. But who knows what the circumstances might be (for revealing information) …This is removing our ability to undertake due process.”

Unbelievable. What a show of feigned concern over Lac Mégantic that federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt has been staging during this past year and a half.

One of the very big problems for CN and CP to transport oil from the west to the east is that they gave up their lines through the Ottawa Valley over the past 20 years. CP’s abandonment is quite recent; CN’s was 20 years ago. Oops, now we have a surge of oil rail traffic from western Canada and U.S. to Montreal and points east with nowhere else to direct it but through Toronto, be it via Michigan through Windsor and Sarnia or across and down from northern Ontario. There is an interesting Star article from earlier this year detailing the line abandonments. Excerpt here:

The second malady is line abandonment, which has spread aggressively since the 1970s. CP is ripping up its Ottawa Valley main line and, as a result, sending western crude oil bound for eastern refineries through Toronto, where it meets the flow of crude and ethanol coming from the U.S. via Windsor. This makes the trip 250 kilometres longer, strains CP’s busy southern Ontario network and increases the safety risks.

CN abandoned its Ottawa Valley line back in 1995 and has sent traffic for Montreal and points east through Toronto ever since. Its Toronto-Montreal line is busier than CP’s, handling numerous Via Rail passenger trains and all manner of freight, including U.S. crude oil entering Canada at Sarnia.

Today, another 975 kilometres of track is slated for scrapping. This includes the original CN Maritime main line. When the Plaster Rock derailment closed its primary Maritime freight artery, CN sent all Atlantic Canadian traffic, including crude oil, over this alternate route, proving its strategic value.

If I were a rail or an oil company executive in Canada right now, I would be praying very hard that another oil train disaster does not happen. Their disastrous oil by train expansion projects are hanging on very thin ribbons of steel.

I have a vague recollection from my younger years of a CN rail line that crossed central-northern Quebec and connected to the CN main line somewhere in northern Ontario or in Winnipeg. Turns out my recollection was good, but that line, built originally as the National Transcontinental Railway some 100 years ago and merged into CN rail later, has also been abandoned, in bits and pieces over the years. You can view an historic map of the line here. CN’s present-day route map is here. Like CP Rail, CN’s transcontinental connection in Ontario runs through Toronto.

This news from Toronto recalls the complaints of some mayors in the Vancouver region during the past year about the location of the BNSF rail line that carries coal and some (not a lot) of oil into the region from the U.S. along the Pacific coastline. They want the line moved inland and modernized. But who will pay hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new, rail line that doesn’t have a lot of traffic (less than 20 trains per day in total) unless there is lots of anticipated growth? The largest cargo on the line presently is coal, and we know where the future of that lies, as in ‘not so rosy’.

The business case and financing issues involved in a line relocation inland are troublesome details that the mayors overlook mentioning. I’m thinking here of the previous mayor of Surrey, Dianne Watts, who annointed her successor. When Mayor Watts mentioned last year (faintly echoing the demands of transportation experts going back decades) the creation of a fast passenger rail service to connect Vancouver to the large U.S. cities all the way to California, it sounded like she was serious about moving the rail line. But I can’t help but conjure an image of dazzling baubles being dangled before the citizenry.

Presently, Amtrak takes four hours to reach Seattle. An auto can make it in two and a quarter hours, plus whatever is the border wait time. Amtrak runs supplementary buses that are much faster than the train. Sadly in BC, we have federal and provincial governments that couldn’t give a hoot about rail passenger traffic. They have done nothing to promote it; worse, they have closed services and allowed rail lines and service to deteriorate to the point where closure seems just plain good sense. Who would want to travel in slow, dilapidated passenger trains over slow and dilapidated rail lines except for retired folks with a love of train travel and time on their hands?

The past and present mayors of Surrey are very close to the federal government. Dianne Watts will be a candidate of the Conservative Party in next year’s federal election. This is who we will expect to lead the very big, radical and necessary transition to railway travel to replace trucks and cars on highways? Not a chance.

As for the ‘green’ city council of Vancouver, I’m not aware that its majority party has an opinion on the whole matter. If it does, it didn’t voice it during last month’s municipal election.

Please share!