Category Archives: Track maintenance

Canada Transport Watchdog to Introduce New Tank Cars Ahead of Schedule

Repost from Insurance Journal (Reuters)

Canada Transport Watchdog to Introduce New Tank Cars Ahead of Schedule

By David Ljunggren | March 18, 2015
RTR4PZHU
IN PHOTO: Tanker rail cars burn after a crude oil train derailment 50 miles (80 km) south of Timmins, Ontario, in this picture from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada taken in Gogama, Ontario, February 16, 2015. Canadian National Railway Co is still cleaning up spilled oil and removing damaged rail cars after a weekend derailment on its line at a remote site. The company said 29 of 100 cars on the train heading from Alberta’s tar sands to eastern Ontario derailed late on Saturday and seven caught fire. There were no injuries. Picture taken February 16, 2015. REUTERS/Transportation Safety Board of Canada/Handout via Reuters

Canada’s transportation watchdog said that recent fiery derailments of trains hauling crude oil mean a new generation of stronger tanker wagons should be introduced ahead of schedule.

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) is probing two accidents within the last month involving Canadian National Railway Co. oil trains which came off the tracks and caught fire near the small northern Ontario town of Gogama.

Both trains were hauling CPC-1232 crude tankers, meant to be safer than the older DOT-111 models that blew up in downtown Lac-Megantic, Quebec in 2013, killing 47 people. Canada last week unveiled tough standards for a new generation of tanker cars that would replace the CPC-1232s by 2025 at the latest.

“While the proposed standards look promising, the TSB has concerns about the implementation timeline, given initial observations of the performance of CPC-1232 cars in recent derailments,” the agency said in a release.

“If older tank cars, including the CPC-1232 cars, are not phased out sooner, then the regulator and industry need to take more steps to reduce the risk of derailments or consequences following a derailment carrying flammable liquids,” it said, but gave no details.

The agency said track failures may have played a role in each of the Gogama derailments as well as in the case of an oil train that left the tracks near Minnipuka, also in northern Ontario. No crude caught fire in that accident.

The TSB has issued a safety advisory letter asking the federal transport ministry to review the risk assessments conducted for the area.

“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,” said the agency.

“These higher forces expose any weaknesses that may be present in the track structure, making the track more susceptible to failure.”

It noted trains traveling in the area were under orders to travel slowly to protect against various infrastructure and track maintenance issues.

CN spokesman Jim Feeny said the company “has enhanced its already rigorous infrastructure and mechanical inspection procedures on this northern Ontario rail corridor.”

The office of Transport Minister Lisa Raitt – which has overall responsibility for regulating the rail industry – was not immediately available for comment.

(Additional reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto; editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy)

Related article:
Canada Proposes Tough New Oil Tank Car Standards

Please share!

Canada’s Transportation Safety Board points to track issues in derailments

Repost from insideHALTON.com

TSB points to track issues in derailments

By Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press, March 17, 2015
TSB points to track issues in derailments-Image1
A CN Rail train derailment near Gogama, Ont., is shown in a Sunday, March 8, 2015 handout photo. Canada’s transportation investigator says track infrastructure failures may have played a role in three recent derailments involving oil-laden trains in northern Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO – Glenn Thibeault

Canada’s transportation investigator says track infrastructure failures may have played a role in three recent derailments involving oil-laden trains in northern Ontario.

The Transportation Safety Board says it wants Transport Canada to review the risk assessments for a stretch of track known as the CN Ruel subdivision following the fiery derailments in Gogama and Minnipuka.

It says trains have already been ordered to travel slowly on the Class 4 welded rail track due to “various infrastructure and track maintenance issues,” but that heavily loaded tank cars often exert “higher than usual forces” on the track.

The board says that exposes weaknesses in the track and makes it more susceptible to failure.

The agency says its preliminary observations on the March 7 Gogama derailment also found the tank cars performed similarly to those involved in the deadly derailment in Lac-Megantic, Que., despite meeting upgraded safety standards for Class 111 tank cars.

Similar observations were made about a Feb. 14 derailment near the same community, which is about 80 kilometres south of Timmins.

The derailments have fuelled the debate over transporting oil by rail and prompted the transportation ministers of Ontario and Quebec to express concern to their federal counterpart.

Last week, Ottawa proposed tough new standards for rail tank cars used to transport crude oil that would phase out the much-criticized Class 111 tank cars by 2025.

The proposal would require the new tank cars to have outer “jackets,” a layer of thermal protection, and thicker steel walls.

The Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday the proposed standards “look promising,” but must be implemented more quickly than suggested “given initial observations of the performance” of the upgraded Class 111 in recent derailments.

“If older tank cars, including the (upgraded cars), are not phased out sooner, then the regulator and industry need to take more steps to reduce the risk of derailments or consequences following a derailment carrying flammable liquids,” it said.

 

Please share!

Northern California Representatives call for no delay in or weakening of new oil-by-rail safety standards

Repost from The Benicia Herald
[Editor: In an otherwise excellent report, this story fails to mention that Benicia’s own Representative Mike Thompson and 5 other Northern California legislators joined with Reps. Garamendi and Matsui in signing the letter.  Note as well that the fires in the West Virginia explosion burned for nearly 3 days (not 24 hours per this article).  See also Rep. Garamendi’s Press Release.  A PDF copy of the signed letter is available here.  See also coverage in The Sacramento Bee.  – RS]

Garamendi calls for no delay in oil-by-rail safety improvements

By Donna Beth Weilenman, March 4, 2015

U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, is urging the Department of Transportation to issue stronger safety standards for transporting oil by train “without delay.”

Garamendi, a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, made his call in a letter he authored after working with U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, and circulated among members of the House.

He said the letter responds to news that the DOT may consider weakening oil train safety regulations and delaying a deadline for companies to comply with certain safety guidelines.

He said he also has been making his appeal to DOT officials in person as well as in committee hearings and in speaking with reporters, urging the department to adopt stronger safety measures designed to protect communities near rail lines.

He said several key intercontinental rail lines that reach West Coast ports and refineries lie within his Third District.

Those rail lines go through Fairfield, Suisun City, Dixon, Davis, Marysville and Sacramento, he said.

Garamendi is the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

He pointed to a February accident in West Virginia in which a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded, and said that was just the latest in a series of more frequently occurring incidents.

That accident happened in Fayette County, in which Garamendi said 28 tanker rail cars in a CSX train went off the tracks and 20 caught fire, accompanied by explosions and 100-yard-high flames.

Nearby residents were evacuated, and the fires burned for 24 hours.

West Virginia’s governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, issued a statement saying the train was carrying Bakken crude from North Dakota to Yorktown, Va. The train had two locomotives and 109 rail cars, according to a CSX statement.

CSX originally said one car entered the Kanawha River, but later said none had done so.

The company reported at least one rail car ruptured and caught fire. One home was destroyed, and at least one person was treated for potential inhalation of fumes.

The rail line said it was using newer-model tank cars, called CPC 1232, which are described as tougher than DOT-111 cars made before 2011. Garamendi confirmed that.

He also said the train was traveling at 33 mph, well below the 50-mph speed limit for that portion of the track.

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal and a statement from the North Dakota Industrial Commission, the oil contained volatile gases, and its vapor pressure was 13.9 pounds per square inch. A new limit of 13.7 pounds per square inch is expected to be set by North Dakota in April on oil carried by truck or rail from the Bakken Shale fields, though Brad Leone, a spokesperson from Plains All American Pipeline, the company that shipped the oil, said his company had followed all regulations that govern crude shipping and testing.

A few days before, another Canadian National Railways train derailed in Ontario.

“Families living near oil-by-rail shipping lines are rightfully concerned about the safety of the trains that pass through their communities,” Garamendi said.

“For that reason, I have repeatedly called on the Department of Transportation to use all the tools at their disposal to ensure that these shipments are as safe and secure as possible.”

He said he also wants the DOT to act quickly.

“Every day that strong and effective rules are delayed is another day that millions of Americans, including many in my district, are put at greater risk.

“While the Department has made this a priority, they must move with greater urgency to address this matter.”

He and Matsui have written Timothy Butters, acting administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and Sarah Feinberg, acting administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, expressing “our strong concern that despite increased train car derailments and an overall delay in the issuance of oil-train safety regulations, the Department of Transportation may be considering a revision that could delay the deadline for companies to comply with important safety guidelines, including upgrading CPC-1232 tank cars to new standards.”

Citing the frequency of derailments, they wrote that such measures as stabilizing crude and track maintenance before transport should be added to those standards. “Any weakening of the proposed rule would be ill-advised,” they wrote.

The two wrote that the West Virginia accident was the third reported in February.

In addition to that one and the Ontario accident, another train carrying ethanol derailed and caught fire in Iowa.

“These are in addition to recent derailments in Northern California’s Feather River Canyon, Plumas County, and Antelope region where three train cars derailed earlier this year while en route from Stockton to Roseville,” they wrote.

The two said the need for safer train cars “has long been documented and is overdue.”

They said the DOT began updating rules in April 2012. Meanwhile, from 2006 to April 2014, 281 tank cars derailed in the United States and Canada.

They wrote that 48 people died and nearly 5 million gallons of crude oil and ethanol were released.

“Serious crude-carrying train incidents are occurring once every seven weeks on average, and a DOT report predicts that trains hauling crude oil or ethanol will derail an average of 10 times a year over the next two decades, causing billions of dollars in damage and possibly costing hundreds of lives,” they wrote.

In the wake of “this alarming news,” they wrote of their “great concern” that Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration failed to meet its Jan. 15 deadline to release a final rule on crude-by-rail regulations.

They urged the DOT to maintain the timeline that gives companies two years to retrofit cars and to have provisions in place or additional regulations drafted to require stabilization of crude as well as better track maintenance technology.

“We understand that more than 3,000 comments to the rule were analyzed and we commend the DOT for its work with industry thus far on information sharing, slower speeds, and reinforced railcars, but the multi-pronged solutions for this important safety issue must be implemented as quickly as possible,” they wrote.

“We also believe that DOT should issue a rule that requires stripping out the most volatile elements from Bakken crude before it is loaded onto rail cars.

“This operation may be able to lower the vapor pressure of crude oil, making it less volatile and therefore safer to transport by pipeline or rail tank car,” they wrote.

In addition, they wrote that greater priority must be placed on track maintenance and improvement.

“We need safer rail lines that are built for the 21st century, including more advanced technology in maintaining railroad tracks and trains so that faulty axles and tracks do not lead to further derailments,” they wrote.

Saying 16 million Americans live near oil-by-rail shipping lanes, Garamendi and Matsui wrote that if “dangerous and volatile crude” is to be shipped through municipalities and along sensitive waters and wildlife habitat, “the rail and shipping industries must do more.”

The two praised the National Transportation Safety Board for investigating the accidents thoroughly.

But they added that those living near crude-by-rail tracks “should not have to live with the fear that it is only a matter of time.”

Instead, they wrote, the DOT should work toward “release of a strong and robust safety rule as soon as possible.”

Please share!