CN claims - "Best accident record in North America"
September 6, 2005
A spokesman for CN defended the company after the seventh derailment in one month, saying the company has the best accident record
compared to other rail lines in North America.  "Our safety performance compares favourably with the rest of the industry," said Mark
Hallman.

He was commenting after a train derailed Wednesday night between Chilliwack and Abbotsford, BC, and 10 cars spilled dry sulphur near
the Fraser River.  

The amount of sulphur dumped was minimal, Hallman said, adding CN workers had cleared the track by Thursday afternoon.

Paul Ross, a spokesman with Environment Canada, said officials were on site to ensure no sulphur would make it into the river.  "The
primary environmental concern associated with this material is that it does give off a toxic gas in a combustion situation so that it was
critical that the fire department extinguish the small fire quickly as it did (Wednesday night.)"

Hallman acknowledged that two other recent derailments, in Alberta and British Columbia, have been more serious.

On August 3rd, a CN train came off the tracks and spilled hundreds of thousands of litres of bunker oil and toxic wood treating oil along
the shore and into Lake Wabamun, west of Edmonton.

Two days later, another CN train bound for Prince George, BC, derailed over the Cheakamus Canyon near Squamish, dumping more
than 40,000 litres of highly corrosive sodium hydroxide into the river. Thousands of fish and other wildlife were killed.

"We have had a number of derailments of late that have caught the public attention but you have to take a look at our performance in
terms of the overall amount of work we do or train miles we operate," Hallman said.

"We are determined to be very focused so that we can improve our safety performance.  We're never going to sit on our laurels in this
case and we've had a bit of a rough patch here, but we're absolutely committed to safety."

Members of various unions say the company went off the tracks when it comes to safety 10 years ago when it was privatized.

Ken Neumann, national director of the United Steelworkers, said 3,500 maintenance workers met with CN officials for the first time
Thursday after initially being shunned.  "I think we've got the attention of CN," Neumann said, adding members are urging the company to
involve them in coming up with safety initiatives.  "Steelworkers' reputation with respect to health and safety is a top priority," Neumann
said from Toronto.

While CN is touting its accident record, seven derailments in August alone doesn't sound too positive, Neumann said.

Hallman said CN will spend $850 million on its rail-related infrastructure this year to improve safety.

While the company has suffered more than 70 derailments so far this year compared to 49 in the same period last year, Hallman said
the figures are misleading because the statistics from this year also include those of BC Rail.  That company was acquired by CN last
July.

Sean Nixon, spokesman for the Sierra Legal Defence Fund, said environmentalists are keeping an eye on how the BC, Alberta and
federal governments respond to CN's derailments before the Transportation Safety Board concludes its investigations.  "The biggest
issue from our point of view is what is CN going to be charged with?" Nixon said.

Charges could range from violations of the Fisheries Act but also several other acts including the Canadian Environmental Protection Act
or the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

"The big problem is we don't know why the derailments occurred in the first place," Nixon said.

Source:  Camille Bains - MacLeans
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