Category Archives: Rail Safety

KCRA TV3 NEWS VIDEO: Valero’s oil train project halted by Benicia city leaders

Repost from KCRA TV3, Sacramento CA
[Editor: The video could not be embedded here on Benicia Indy, but it's a good one - click the image to go to KCR3's website for the video.  - RS]

Valero’s oil train project halted by Benicia city leaders

Crude oil train would have traveled through NorCal cities daily
Sep 21, 2016, 9:10 PM PDT

benicia_video_linkBENICIA, Calif. (KCRA) —Benicia City Councilmembers denied Valero’s plans Tuesday night to move forward on its crude-by-rail proposal, citing safety concerns.

The project would have had trains transporting tens of thousands of crude oil – daily — to Benicia through Sacramento-area communities.

In the city of Benicia, with a population just under 30,000, you can’t miss the large presence of Valero.

“They provide a lot of money to the city,” Benicia resident John Geels said.

The company is the largest employer, providing 20 percent to the general fund. So, it became a big deal last night when city council members told the company “No.”

“We denied the appeal that Valero put forward, after the planning commission unanimously denied their application for a permit,” Benicia Councilmember Christina Strawbridge said.

That permit would have paved the way for an expansive crude oil project impacting Northern California cities.

For years, the issue went beyond the borders of Benicia, as the public and other jurisdictions expressed concerns over safety.

“Right in the heart of Davis, we are in the blast zone right now,” Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor said. “And, that increased volume would increase the risk in our communities.”

Ultimately, Benicia councilmembers voted unanimously to reject the plan, many citing recent oil train emergencies.

“It gave me real pause,” Strawbridge said. “As far as rail safety, there’s been 13 different derailments since 2013.”

Valero issued a response to the decision:

“After nearly four years of review and analysis by independent experts and the city, we are disappointed that the city councilmembers have chosen to reject the crude by rail project. At this time, we are considering our options moving forward.”

The divisive issue still has some residents split on the outcome.

“I feel bad for Valero, and I’m sure it’s going to hurt them financially,” Geels said. “But, I’m glad they were turned down.”

Meanwhile, others said the small city is making big waves, setting a new precedent as the conversation over crude oil transport continues.

“So, it’s a milestone because this community stood up,” Saylor said.

On Thursday morning, the planning commission in San Luis Obispo County will be taking up a similar hearing — for an oil-by-rail project proposed by Phillips 66.

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LATEST DERAILMENT: Diesel fuel leak in heart of Toronto, no injuries

Repost from the Toronto Star

Freight train derailment a ‘wake-up call’ on rail safety, councillor says

Human error blamed for freight train derailment in heart of the city after a Canadian Pacific Railway train collided with another on Sunday morning.
By Ebyan Abdigir, Aug. 21, 2016
A CP Railway freight train derailed near Bathurst and Dupont Sts., early Sunday after two trains collided, causing a diesel fuel spill. CP blames human error for the collision.

A CP Railway freight train derailed near Bathurst and Dupont Sts., early Sunday after two trains collided, causing a diesel fuel spill. CP blames human error for the collision. (ANDREW FRANCIS WALLACE / TORONTO STAR)

Human error is being blamed for a freight train derailment in the heart of Toronto Sunday morning that had crews scrambling to contain a diesel fuel leak.

The derailment happened after a train struck the tail of another train at about 5:20 a.m. near Dupont and Bathurst Sts., Canadian Pacific Railway spokesperson Martin Cej told the Star.

No one was injured in the collision and subsequent derailment and the diesel fuel leak, which Toronto police said had not been a threat to public safety, was quickly contained.

Cej said that one car was carrying batteries and aerosols, which are classified as “dangerous goods” under Canadian regulation, but they did not leak, he confirmed.

City councillor Josh Matlow raised new concerns Sunday about freight trains running through densely populated neighbourhoods.

A CN train derailed near Bridgeman and Howland Aves., East of Bathurst and Dupont Sts.

A CN train derailed near Bridgeman and Howland Aves., East of Bathurst and Dupont Sts.  (ANDREW FRANCIS WALLACE) 

“While it was incredibly fortunate no one was hurt today, this derailment should act as a wake-up call for the federal government to move swiftly on rail safety,” he said.

This spring, Mayor John Tory, Matlow and 16 other councillors whose wards are nestled by rail lines, signed a letter sent to Marc Garneau, the federal Transport Minister, calling for better rail safety.

The 2016 federal budget allocated $143 million to be used over three years to improve rail safety.

Cej said “early indications” point to human error as the cause of Sunday’s collision and derailment and that equipment failure was not a factor.

Bartlett Ave., north of Dupont, was closed while police and rail officials investigated the incident.

A crowd gathers near where a CP Railway train derailed near Bathurst and Dupont Sts. on Sunday morning.

A crowd gathers near where a CP Railway train derailed near Bathurst and Dupont Sts. on Sunday morning.   (ANDREW FRANCIS WALLACE)

Although there were no dangerous goods on board either train Sunday, roughly 9 per cent of goods transported by CP in Ontario are regulated dangerous goods, according to a disclosure to Transport Canada for 2015.

A 2014 investigation by Star reporter Jessica McDiarmid monitored CP’s rail line that crosses Barlett Ave. on its way to Dupont St. in the Junction before it goes northward, west of the Don Valley.

Between two 12-hour shifts, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., the Star found that more than 130 cars and tanks carried dangerous goods such as crude oil, methyl bromide and ethyl trichlorosilane, and more.

A little over three years ago, a train hauling 72 cars of crude oil, derailed in Lac-Mégantic, Que. It resulted in an inferno that killed 47 people, and spilled six million litres of crude.

Since the 2013 Lac-Mégantic disaster, rail companies are required to provide information to municipalities for emergency planning, however, under strict confidentiality agreements. Canada’s largest railroads already did this upon request.

In February 2015, the federal government introduced a bill that increased the amount of insurance railways must carry to cover costs in the event of a derailment.

A worker grabs hold of the railing of a derailed CN engine near Bridgeman and Howland Aves. on August 21.

A worker grabs hold of the railing of a derailed CN engine near Bridgeman and Howland Aves. on August 21.  (ANDREW FRANCIS WALLACE) 

With files from Fakiha Baig and Star Staff

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FED REPORT: Many railroads making little progress on installing safety systems required by congress

Repost from the Recorder, Greenfield, MA
[Editor:  Important for Benicia as we consider permitting Valero Crude by Rail: "Progress varies considerably by railroad. For example, BNSF has equipped 4,309 of its 5,000 locomotives, but Union Pacific has equipped only 13 of its 5,656 locomotives."  If permitted, Valero would be served by Union Pacific trains.  - RS]

Railroads show little progress on key safety technology

By Joan Lowy, Associated Press, Wednesday, August 17, 2016

In this Wednesday, May 13, 2015 photo, emergency personnel work at the scene of a derailment in Philadelphia of an Amtrak train headed to New York. Many commuter and freight railroads have made little progress installing safety technology designed to prevent deadly collisions and derailments despite a mandate from Congress, according to a government report released Wednesday. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File

WASHINGTON — Many commuter and freight railroads have made little progress installing safety technology designed to prevent deadly collisions and derailments despite a mandate from Congress, according to a government report released Wednesday.

The technology, called positive train control or PTC, uses digital radio communications, GPS and signals alongside tracks to monitor train positions. It can automatically stop or slow trains to prevent them from disobeying signals, derailing due to excessive speed, colliding with another train or entering track that is off-limits.

The Federal Railroad Administration report shows that while some railroads have made substantial progress, others have yet to equip a single locomotive or track segment with the technology, or install a single radio tower.

Congress passed a law in 2008 giving railroads seven years to put the technology in place, and last year extended that deadline for three more years after railroads said they were unable to meet the first deadline. The law extending the deadline to Dec. 31, 2018, also allows the railroad administration to grant additional extensions for two more years to railroads that have installed PTC but are still testing the systems.

Railroads shouldn’t wait for the deadline to complete their work on PTC, said Sarah Feinberg, head of the railroad administration.

“Every day that passes without PTC, we risk adding another preventable accident to a list that is already too long,” she said in a statement.

So far, PTC is in operation on nine percent of freight route miles and 22 percent of passenger train miles, the report said.

Freight railroads have equipped 34 percent of their locomotives, installed 73 percent of their radio towers and completed 11 percent of their track segments. Passenger railroads have equipped 29 percent of their locomotives, installed 46 percent of their radio towers, and completed 12 percent of their track segments.

But progress varies considerably by railroad. For example, BNSF has equipped 4,309 of its 5,000 locomotives, but Union Pacific has equipped only 13 of its 5,656 locomotives.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, which operates commuter trains in the Philadelphia region, has equipped all its locomotives, installed all its radio towers and completed all its track segments. But nearby New Jersey Transit Rail, which carries an average of 308,000 passengers on weekdays, hasn’t equipped any locomotives, installed any radio towers or completed any track segments.

The report also gave zeros in each of those categories to New York’s largest commuter railroads, the Metro-North and the Long Island railroads, which each carry about 300,000 passengers on weekdays. In 2013, a speeding Metro-North train derailed while going around a curve in the Bronx. Four people were killed and more than 60 injured. The National Transportation Safety Board said the accident could have been prevented if PTC had been in operation.

The report is based on information supplied by the railroads.

The report “is an overall summary that does not convey the progress we have achieved,” said Nancy Snyder, a spokeswoman for New Jersey Transit. She noted that the railroad has acquired spectrum rights, equipped four “prototype vehicles” for testing and installed five antennas in a demonstration area, among other actions.

Beth DeFalco, a spokeswoman for the Metro-North and Long Island railroads, said the railroads have done extensive work on PTC and hope to see benefits from the technology as soon as next year.

The NTSB has urged railroads to install positive train control or earlier train control technologies for more than four decades. The board says that over that time it has investigated at least 145 PTC-preventable accidents in which about 300 people were killed and 6,700 injured.

More recently, the board has said PTC could have prevented the head-on collision of two BNSF trains in June near Panhandle, Texas. Three railroad employees were killed in the crash. The technology also could have prevented the derailment of a speeding Amtrak train in Philadelphia last year. Eight people were killed and over 200 injured in the crash.

Commuter railroads have spent $950 million on PTC so far, but the total cost is estimated to be at least $3.48 billion, said Richard A. White, acting president of the American Public Transportation Association. The White House requested Congress provide $1.25 billion in the coming 2017 federal budget year to help commuter railroads with PTC; House and Senate spending bills allocate only $199 million.

“Despite this funding dilemma, the industry is moving forward with this top safety priority,” White said in a statement.

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