Canadian Manufacturing

‘Competing priorities’ led to 2014 CN train crash that spilled 4,000L of diesel

Crew was focused on radioed commands instead of watching the rails

August 6, 2015  by Canadian Staff

DORVAL, Que—The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has issued its investigation report into a collision between two Canadian National trains in Montreal, Quebec in 2014.

There were no injuries in the crash, but both trains sustained damage and approximately 4,000 litres of diesel fuel was spilled.

“On 23 February 2014, a Canadian National yard assignment train was travelling with 25 loaded cars on the freight track of the Montreal Subdivision. At about midnight, the train went through a stop signal and collided with the side of another CN train travelling on the north (adjacent) track in the opposite direction,” the TSB said.

The agency’s investigation determined as the yard assignment train was approaching the junction between the freight track and the north track, the rail traffic controller radioed the crew, requiring them to copy instructions. In the minutes leading up to the crash,the crew prioritized copying the RTC’s instructions over the operation of the train and observing the applicable signals. As a result, the stop signal was not identified, which led to the collision.


“The locomotives of the yard assignment train were controlled using a remote control locomotive system called a “Beltpack.” An examination into CN’s Beltpack practices revealed that CN does not limit the train tonnage, length, or territory characteristics for Beltpack operations,” the agency said.

It added that even though the Montreal Subdivision presents some unique characteristics and challenges, “CN has not conducted a specific risk assessment for Beltpack operations on this subdivision.”

The investigation concluded that, if a thorough analysis of risks is not carried out for the operation of Beltpack trains on main track, the vulnerabilities involved in this type of operation will not be identified, and appropriate mitigation measures will not be implemented to protect the public.

The Board is calling for the implementation of additional physical safety defences to ensure that railway signal indications governing operating speed or operating limits are consistently recognized and followed.