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TSB assesses Transport Canada's responses to safety recommendations, awaits new chair

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) yesterday released its assessment of Transport Canada's (TC) response to its three recommendations issued in January in response to the fatal derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

The TSB's accident investigation so far has found that, even at lower speeds, the older unprotected "Class 111" tank cars involved in the accident ruptured during the derailment, releasing crude oil that fueled an ensuing fire. The board's first recommendation called for better protection to reduce the risk of tank cars being breached in an accident.

TC responded by immediately prohibiting the most unprotected Class 111 tanks cars and requiring that older Class 111 cars be phased out or retrofitted within three years. The TSB released three engineering lab reports on the Class 111 tank cars involved in the Lac-Mégantic accident.

"There are risks to carrying more and more oil by rail and the board's recommendations are aimed at bringing those risks down," said TSB Chair Wendy Tadros in a press release. "We are pleased with the strong first steps taken by TC and will be watching carefully for crucial follow-up action on Class 111 tank cars and route planning and analysis."

The board's second recommendation called for strategic route planning and safer operations for trains carrying dangerous goods. In the short term, TC will require railroads to implement minimum key operating practices, including speed restrictions, expanded inspections and risk assessments for routes used to transport more than 10,000 carloads of hazardous materials annually. In the long term, TC will require railroads carrying dangerous goods to submit for approval new rules that improve their operating practices.

"While there has been positive action, we are urging TC to look carefully at the threshold for lower volume routes to ensure dangerous goods will always be moved safely," said Tadros.

The TSB's third recommendation called for emergency response assistance plans along routes where large volumes of liquid hydrocarbons are shipped. In response, TC issued a protective direction that ensures that there will be an approved plan in place for the shipment of higher-risk hydrocarbons and ethanol. The TSB believes the recommendation has been fully satisfied, board members said.

The accident investigation — which remains a top TSB priority — is continuing and now is in the report-writing phase, they said.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government yesterday announced two TSB appointments. Kathleen Fox will become chair to succeed Tadros — who has served as chairperson the past nine years — and Faye Ackermans will become a part-time member.

A TSB member since 2007, Fox will serve a four-year term beginning Aug. 21. She has an extensive aviation background, including a stint at TC and several high-ranking positions at NAV CANADA, including vice president of operations.

A 25-year rail industry veteran, Ackermans will serve a four-year appointment, effective immediately. She previously held various positions at Canadian Pacific for many years, including general manager of safety and regulatory affairs from 1996 to 2008.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/19/2014