Feds to audit CP Rail's safety measures after investigation found railway 'normalized' problems

·2 min read
A train derailment near Field, B.C., killed three crew members on Feb. 4, 2019. (Anis Heydari/CBC - image credit)
A train derailment near Field, B.C., killed three crew members on Feb. 4, 2019. (Anis Heydari/CBC - image credit)

The federal government says it will audit CP Rail's safety practices and training regime, after a report by the Transportation Safety Board found the company had "normalized" a persistent problem with braking during winter, before a derailment near Field, B.C., that killed three crew members in February 2019.

Andrew Dockrell, Dylan Paradis and Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer of Calgary were killed when their train's air brakes failed in windchill temperatures of –30 degrees on Feb. 4, 2019. It caused their loaded CP grain train to run away down a mountain, derailing 99 cars and landing a locomotive in the Kicking Horse River.

Multiple factors, including insufficient training and experience, as well as the limitations of air brake test methodologies, contributed to the derailment, the TSB report found.

Based on the TSB's recommendations, Transport Canada (TC) said it will:

  • Oversee CP Rail's occupational health and safety committees.

  • Work with the railway industry to develop enhanced rules around the inspection and maintenance of air brakes.

  • Require rail companies to develop winter operating plans for their equipment.

  • Launch a working group to explore the installation of automatic parking brakes on freight cars.

"Our government will continue to make improvements to ensure Canada remains a global leader in rail safety," said Transport Minister Omar Alghabra in a release.

Measures don't go far enough, says families' lawyer

Lawyer Tavengwa Runyowa, who represents Andrew Dockrell's family and Dylan Paradis's mother, critiqued the government's announcement as "window dressing."

"What the minister of transport and the prime minister are doing is just trimming a weed to make it look better, without fixing the fundamental problem of a system where we deregulated the railway industry and have allowed the railway companies to have their own police forces," said Runyowa, whose clients want an end to railway policing in Canada.

Railway safety expert Ian Naish believes the new measures are a good step but said it remains to be seen whether they'll have much of an impact.

"Sometimes you get these really good recommendations and ministerial orders, and what comes out of the sausage machine at the end is sometimes a bit more diluted than you'd like to see," said Naish, a rail safety consultant and former TSB director of rail crash investigations.

In response to a request for comment from CBC Calgary, CP Rail reiterated it has "serious concerns" about alleged inaccuracies and misstatements in the TSB's investigation report.

"It is essential that TC's regulatory actions are always based on facts and evidence," the statement said.

For its part, the TSB said it stands by its reporting and is reviewing the federal government's response to its recommendations.

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