|December 18, 2005
Ottawa relaxes CN railcar limit despite wave of accidents
|The federal government has temporarily loosened some recent restrictions that were imposed on Canadian National following a
wave of recent derailments in B.C. It was announced that CN may now “extend” the length of some trains by more than 20 per cent
despite their increased derailments. B.C. NDP Transportation Critic David Chudnovsky said he's disappointed CN is being allowed
to run up to 99 cars on the Squamish-Clinton run.
On December 14th, Federal Transport Minister Jean Lapierre said that CN can now add up to 19 cars to northbound trains in the
Squamish area that are fuelled by distributed power systems. This new rule overrides a December 7th ruling that limited the length
of those trains to 80 cars. The new rule will be in effect for at least the next 60 days.
The company proposed a series of safety measures to the government, including the addition of a CN supervisor on each train, extra
training and en route testing to verify that power systems are in order. However, Ottawa warned that it would not sit on its hands if the
company doesn't meet expectations. "If these requirements are not respected, Transport Canada will impose further restrictions and
may take legal action," Mr. Lapierre said in a statement.
CN's B.C. operations have been under increased scrutiny as a result of 10 derailments in the province this year on former BC Rail
lines, and 19 in total throughout the province. The area between Squamish and Clinton is seen as particularly treacherous because
of its steep and twisting rail routes.
CN spokesman Jim Feeny said; "Our expectation is that the maximum length will be increased incrementally beyond the 99 cars as
the safety of the operation is established to the satisfaction of Transport Canada." CN expects to show the changes will work.
CN was recently fined $75,000.00 in connection with the May 14, 2003 bridge collapse near McBride, B.C. that killed crew members
Ken LeQuesne and Art McKay.
B.C. Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair said that he was appalled by the small $75,000 fine imposed on CN and is calling
for an immediate criminal investigation.
"This is an insult to the workers' families and an insult to every worker in this country", said Sinclair. "The federal and provincial
governments are not willing to do what it takes to ensure that workers are protected when they go to work. The message: there are
no real consequences for employers who ignore their safety responsibilities".
Related article: CN pleads guilty - fined $75,000 for McBride bridge collapse