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8/2/2013



Rail News: Safety

Quebec accident: TSB nears end of field investigation; Maine representatives push PHMSA for rail safety review


The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is wrapping up its on-site operations at the location of the deadly Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, the board announced yesterday.

An investigative team has finished examining and documenting the wreckage and gathering necessary data from the accident site. With the field phase winding down, the TSB is moving into the ongoing investigation's examination and analysis phase, board members said in a press release.

In the coming months, investigators and engineering experts expect to:
• analyze metallurgical samples, damage records and photographs to determine the crashworthiness of the tank cars involved in the derailment;
• review three-dimensional images of some damaged tank cars to better understand the cars' performance during the accident;
• examine selected wreckage in the laboratory and test selected components, such as brakes and wheel sets;
• create simulations and reconstruct events to learn more about the accident sequence;
• study fluid samples to verify the properties of the petroleum product carried in the cars; and
• review data from the locomotive event recorder and conduct brake tests on the locomotives involved in the accident.

"We need to be thorough and it will take months," said Donald Ross, the TSB's investigator-in-charge.

If at any stage during the investigation the board identifies additional safety deficiencies, it will communicate directly with Transport Canada, the rail industry and public, TSB officials said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) met with Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) Administrator Cynthia Quarterman on Wednesday to discuss their request for a rail safety review in the wake of the accident.

After hearing about safety concerns raised by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) regarding "DOT-111" tank cars, which were among those that ruptured during the derailment, Michaud and Pingree encouraged the PHMSA to issue a new rule enhancing the design of those cars as soon as possible.

The representatives previously met with NTSB and Federal Railroad Administration officials about their request. The Obama administration recently announced that any rulemaking on tank-car design will be delayed by about one year.

“While it is still too early in the investigation to determine exactly how this tragedy could have been prevented, the design flaws of DOT-111 tank cars are well documented," Michaud and Pingree said in a joint statement. "We appreciate PHMSA's efforts to advance a rule to update the design of these cars, but progress is frustratingly slow given the initial delay. The federal rulemaking process is a cumbersome one, but we need to avoid any further delays, especially given the exponential growth of hazardous material shipments."



Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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