Train derailments dramatically increasing in Canada
August 15, 2005
Canada has averaged 120 derailments per year by all railway companies for the last five years, but is on track for 180 in 2005, said
Conrad Bellehumeur, spokesman for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

But CN spokesman Jim Feeny defended his company's safety record.  "CN, in the last couple of years, has been the safest it's ever
been.  Our accident rate so far this year is still 14% lower than the same time last year," he said.

Neither Bellehemeur nor Feeny could give an exact number of derailments involving CN this year.

One veteran CN conductor accused the company of cutting corners.

"It's absolutely atrocious what's happened to CN in the last 20 years," said Mike Melymick. who is also chairman of the Alberta Legislative
Board of the United Transportation Union.  Melymick said any increase in derailments at CN is due to a "lack of maintenance, a decrease
in manpower, and a lack of inspectors."

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference agrees.

"We demand a complete and comprehensive review of CN's maintenance, repair and inspection practices," said the union's official
Bruce Willows.

Two high-profile crashes in the last week brought CN under public scrutiny.  Forty-five of 140 train cars left the tracks last Wednesday
near Wabamun, 66 km west of Edmonton.  Some contained bunker C fuel oil, used in liquid asphalt and to power barges and ships.  
Twelve of those cars leaked 733,000 litres into the lake and surrounding shoreline.

Then, just days later, a CN train wreck near Squamish, B.C., sent thousands of litres of toxic sodium hydroxide into the Cheakamus River.

The safety board has completed a preliminary investigation into the derailments "to see if there's a trend we can identify," Bellehumeur
said.  He wasn't sure when the results would be made public.

The safety board is also investigating the Wabamun spill.

Source:  Edmonton Sun - Max Maudie
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