Repost from CBC News [Editor: Note the industry terminology: “the TSB blamed the derailment on “truck hunting,” a term used by people in the industry to refer to the side-to-side movement of wheel sets on a particular freight car. Excessive truck hunting can cause the wheel to lift, potentially leading to a derailment, the TSB said.” – RS]
No one injured in July 2014 incident, only a small amount of aviation fuel lost, report says
CBC News, Nov 05, 2015 1:24 PM ET
A wheel issue caused the derailment of a 26-car CN Rail train near Brockville last summer, according to a report by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.
Two loaded automobile cars, five cars carrying carbon powder, and 13 cars containing aviation fuel residue were among those that jumped the tracks on July 10, 2014, near Lyn Road and Highway 401, about 115 kilometres south of Ottawa.
In its report, the TSB blamed the derailment on “truck hunting,” a term used by people in the industry to refer to the side-to-side movement of wheel sets on a particular freight car.
Excessive truck hunting can cause the wheel to lift, potentially leading to a derailment, the TSB said.
In the case of the Brockville derailment, the TSB blamed a combination of factors: the speed of the train, the type of car where the wheel issue manifested itself — a 24-metre-long “centrebeam bulkhead flat car” — and the worn condition of the side bearings.
The train was traveling about 100 km/h at the time of the accident, the report said.
Because the fuel cars on the CN train that derailed near Brockville were mostly empty, only a “small amount of product” was lost, the TSB said Thursday. Still, the damage to the fuel cars was consistent with what had been observed in previous accidents, the safety board said.
“The potential for catastrophic environmental impacts and loss of life remains, thereby reinforcing the need for improved tank car design standards,” said the board.
Since the accident, CN has upgraded all of the flat cars in their fleet similar to the one where the wheel issue occurred and has introduced new speed restrictions on those cars, the TSB said.
State House bill: Report volume, contents of oil trains
By Joel Connelly, April 14, 2015
A bill that would require “comprehensive reporting” of the volume and specific contents of oil trains crossing Washington was passed on a bipartisan vote by the state House of Representatives on Tuesday.
The legislation goes to the Republican-run state Senate, where key committee chairs enjoy much closer relationships with railroads and oil refiners.
“The House has passed these urgently needed policies with bipartisan support, twice. Delay on the part of the Senate is unacceptable,” said Joan Crooks, CEO of the Washington Environmental Council and Washington Conservation Voters.
(Washington Conservation Voters tried in 2014 to defeat several oil industry allies in the Senate, but lost every high-profile race.)
The legislation, passed on a 58-40 vote, requires that shippers and receivers give cargo data to first responders, but goes further and establishes a website for members of the public to access the information.
Washington Fire Chiefs, in letters sent last month to railroads, asked BNSF, Union Pacific and Canadian National to supply “Comprehensive Emergency Response Plans” and “Worst Case Scenarios” on an oil train accident.
BNSF has responded by offering the chiefs a meeting.
If there is such a response plan or plans, “I haven’t seen it,” new Seattle Fire Chief Harold Skoggins told a news conference with Sen. Maria Cantwell and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray last week.
“It would be nice were there a system created where we would be notified when this material is traveling through our city,” Skoggins added.
The railroads have been reticent about releasing cargo information, citing national security concerns and privately voicing fear of protests.
BNSF has, however, released information on the upgrading of tracks and investment in newer, safer oil tanker cars.
The House legislation goes further, directing rule making for such measures as tug escorts when hazardous cargoes are transported by water. It directs the state to inspect rail crossings and push for repairs.
And it would require oil companies to pay for increased oil spill prevention, preparedness and response.
Just two and a half years have passed since the first oil train, carrying Bakken crude oil from North Dakota, passed through Seattle en route to refineries in northern Puget Sound.
The state now sees about 19 oil trains a week. At least a dozen pass along the Seattle waterfront, through a mile-long tunnel, and past the stadium homes of the Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Mariners and Seattle Sounders.
The BNSF has trained Seattle firefighters on oil tanker cars brought to a site in Interbay. But any serious fire would require a major response from numerous fire departments.
The legislation in Olympia has been inspired, in part, by the long delay in getting new oil train safety rules — such as getting old, unsafe tanker cars off the tracks — out of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The U.S. and Canada have seen a series of oil train fires in recent months. A runaway train wiped out the center of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people. A train blew up near New Casselton, North Dakota, luckily in an unpopulated area. In February, there were major accidents and fires in West Virginia, Illinois and Ontario.
Sen. Cantwell is sponsoring federal legislation that would require railroads and oil companies to disclose routes and vapor content of trains to first responders.
Eventually, the senator warned last week, Puget Sound population centers could see up to 16 trains a day.
‘There’s still definitely a lot of concerns long-term from the people of the community’
Apr 10, 2015 7:00 AM ET
It’s been just over a month since a train carrying crude oil derailed near Gogama sparking a massive environmental clean up.
CN Rail said remediation crews have now removed all the ice for an approximately 400 meter stretch up and downstream of the rail bridge where the train carrying crude oil from Alberta left the tracks on March 7, causing the fire and spill.
The company has not said how much oil leaked out of rail cars in the wreck, but Gerry Talbot said it’s a significant amount.
“So far there has been 926,000 litres of oil and water mixture type of thing that has been collected,” said Talbot, the secretary of the local services board in Gogama.
CN said large ice booms have also been installed on the river to prevent the uncontrolled flow of ice through the remediation site during the spring thaw.
Testing so far has not shown any contamination of ground water, the company said, and monitoring continues.
Concerns for tourism
While it’s good news, Talbot said some in the community are still worried about what the oil spill will do to property values, and whether tourists will still flock to local lodges for the summer fishing season.
“People may not be calling the local tourism lodges to book rooms or to book a trailer site. Is it because of the oil? Well, you probably won’t know because they are not calling,” he said.
“There’s still definitely a lot of concerns long-term from the people of the community, and rightly so.”
CN is also asking local fishermen to drop off specimens at the Gogama Community Centre so it can continue to test for the presence of any oil products in the fish.
The company said there is no estimate on how long it will take to complete the environmental remediation of the area.
Exclusive: CN Rail derailment numbers soared before recent crashes
By Allison Martell, Mar 23, 2015 5:37am EDT
(Reuters) – Canadian National Railway’s safety record deteriorated sharply in 2014, reversing years of improvements, as accidents in Canada blamed on poor track conditions hit their highest level in more than five years, a Reuters analysis has found.
Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) said on Tuesday that track failure may have played a role in CN’s three recent Ontario accidents, which have fueled calls for tougher regulation. The agency said oil unit trains, made up entirely of tank cars, could make tracks more susceptible to failure.
Data obtained under access to information laws and analyzed by Reuters shows a broader trend, which has not been previously reported, and could pile more pressure on CN Rail to slow down trains or reduce their length. A crackdown on oil trains could raise the cost of shipping Canadian crude by rail.
Trains operated by CN in Canada derailed along main lines 57 times in 2014, up 73 percent from 33 in 2013 and well above a 2009-2013 average of 39 accidents per year. On CN’s full 21,000 mile (33,800 km) network, which also includes the Midwestern and southern United States, freight carloads rose 8 percent last year.
At least 27 of the domestic derailments were caused by track problems, up from a previous annual average of 14. Data for smaller rival Canadian Pacific Railway showed no similar pattern.
“CN is keenly aware of its recent safety trends, starting with a sudden increase of its accident rate in 2014,” Canada’s biggest railway said in a response to Reuters’ analysis.
The railway pointed out that its performance improved between 2007 and 2013, and so far, 2015 has been better than 2014. It said it was reviewing recent trends and has started testing tracks more frequently, boosted spending on infrastructure and installed new technology to detect problems with its tracks and equipment.
For 2015 it is planning to increase capital spending by C$300 million, to C$2.6 billion ($2.1 billion).
The rapid rise of crude by rail traffic has made more derailments potentially deadly, exposing railways to more scrutiny, particularly since 2013, when a runaway oil train leveled the center of the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic, killing 47 people.
Doug Finnson, president of a Teamsters union representing CN Rail’s train crews, said he was particularly concerned with the recent Ontario derailments.
“We’re on the record saying the trains are too long, the cars are too heavy, and the trains go too fast.”
Yet it is not clear what was behind CN’s poor safety performance last year.
New Brunswick farmer Paul-Emile Soucy, who experienced CN’s troubles first-hand, faults inadequate maintenance.
On Jan. 26, 2014, a CN train derailed crossing his 230-year-old family farm. He said CN workers had marked railroad ties that needed to be replaced months before the accident, but they were replaced only after the derailment.
“They knew that the ties were bad and rotten and had to be replaced, but they didn’t do anything about it,” said Soucy. Data obtained by Reuters indicates that a broken rail caused the derailment.
But CN rejected Soucy’s criticism, saying it spent C$41 million on basic maintenance in the area between 2012 and 2014.
The railway blamed bad weather and increased freight volume for last year’s spike in derailments. Rough weather, however, did not prevent rival Canadian Pacific from improving its safety performance, and the rise in volume was far less pronounced than the jump in derailments.
Both railways shipped similar volumes of crude last year – CN moved 128,000 carloads, or some 2 percent of its freight volume, and CP moved 110,000 carloads, 4 percent of its total.
The safety watchdog TSB has suggested that oil trains may have contributed to track problems that caused the Ontario accidents, but declined to comment on whether those trains could also be behind the overall rise in derailments, or comment on Reuters’ analysis in general.
Transport Canada, the industry’s main regulator, also did not comment specifically on Reuters’ findings, but spokesman Zach Segal noted that Transport Minister Lisa Raitt has asked a parliamentary committee to invite CN Rail to discuss its operations.
CN suggested last year could have been an outlier.
“It’s important to view CN’s safety performance over a span of time to assess meaningful trend lines, not just on the basis of a single or two-year perspective,” the railway said.
Its own statistics, shared with Reuters, show that its Canadian accident rate declined 26 percent from 2007 to 2013, to 1.71 accidents per million train miles. In 2014, the rate jumped to 2.67, its highest in at least a decade, but it is down to 2.15 so far this year. A less commonly used measure, accidents per billion gross ton miles, has improved markedly over the last decade, but jumped 58 percent in 2014.
(See related INTERACTIVE map of Major Oil Train Derailmentsin the U.S. and Canada since 2013: here)
Reuters’ analysis showed last year’s spike in accidents was driven mainly by track problems.
Ian Naish, a former director of rail and pipeline investigations at the TSB, said weather and traffic could have played a role, but one should also consider the impact of unit trains, which carry single commodities, on tracks.
“The intensity of loading is heavier than a mixed-freight train, generally,” said Naish. “All the cars are the same design, and the loads are all the same, so it’s the same impact, the same way, all the time.”
Unit trains have long been used to carry coal, grain and other commodities, but oil trains are a product of the rise of crude by rail and the shale boom of the past few years.
CN declined to comment on its recent accidents in Ontario, citing ongoing investigations. It said, however, that it had seen no indication that unit trains cause accidents, noting that such trains carrying other commodities, many with heavier loads, have run safely for decades. But the railway said it was reviewing the issue with outside experts.
($1 = 1.2549 Canadian dollars)
(Additional reporting by Nia Williams in Calgary; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)