Canadian Manufacturing

Lac-Megantic disaster prompts changes to Railway Safety Act

Six changes brought forward in emergency directive issued by federal department



OTTAWA—Transport Canada is acting swiftly in response to the Lac-Megantic, Que., rail disaster, issuing an emergency directive that makes it against code to leave unattended trains carrying dangerous goods on main tracks.

The changes to section 33 of the Railway Safety Act come on the heels of recommendations made by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) following the derailment, explosions and fire aboard a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic train in the town in southeastern Quebec that killed a suspected 47 people.

In addition to disallowing unattended trains with one or more tank car carrying dangerous goods to be left on main tracks, the federal department has also made a change to the act that calls for trains with one or more tank car carrying dangerous goods to be operated by at least two qualified people when on main tracks or sidings.

The directive also states that directional controls—more commonly referred to as reversers—must be removed from unattended locomotives on main tracks or sidings, hand brakes are to be applied to locomotives attached to one or more cars left unattended for more than an hour on main tracks or sidings and the locomotive’s brake is to be set in the full service position and the independent brake is fully applied.

Companies also have five days to ensure any locomotive running on main tracks or sidings “are protected from unauthorized entry into the cab.”

The changes to the Railway Safety Act come just days after the TSB issued what it called “urgent safety letters” to the federal department, one calling for Transport Canada to “ensure that equipment and trains left unattended are properly secured in order to prevent unintended movements,” and the other “to ensure that trains carrying dangerous goods are not left unattended on a main track.”

Those recommendations came July 19, less than two weeks into the investigation into the cause of the July 6 incident in Lac-Megantic.

“Although the cause of the accident in Lac-Megantic remains unknown at this time, Transport Canada is moving forward to build upon the safety advisories received … from the Transportation Safety Board and further enhance existing safe railway operations and the security of railway transportation,” Transport Canada said in a statement about the changes to the act.

All changes in the emergency directive are effective immediately.

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