David Thomas, Contributing Editor

David Thomas, Contributing Editor

David Thomas is a reporter who has covered government and society since graduating from Ottawa’s Carleton University with degrees in political science and journalism. He has written for National Geographic, Maclean’s, The Globe and Mail, The Gazette, and The Canadian Press news agency from postings in Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, and London, England. “Railroading has been a personal fascination since a childhood timed fortunately enough to witness the golden years of steam on the late-to-dieselize Canadian National and Canadian Pacific,” he says.

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Transport Canada’s new Railway Operating Certificate (ROC), which comes into effect Jan. 1 2015, adds one simple form to the pile of paperwork required to run trains, but gives the regulator a new power to shut down a company’s operations without resorting to prosecution in court.
Thursday, 20 November 2014 11:50

Keystone XL promoter a convert to CBR

Now even the promoter of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline is boosting the benefits of crude-by-rail (CBR) over pipelines.

After a train crash of criticism by Canada's Transportation Safety Board and the country's auditor-general, Transport Canada is softly moderating its three-wise-monkeys approach to railway regulation.

Whatever the unrevealed reasons for Cynthia Quarterman’s (pictured) Oct. 3, 2014 departure as head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), a change at the top may reverse the federal regulator’s much-criticized lethargy in fixing the core cause of exploding oil trains.
The vital other shoe in crude by rail reform will drop not in Ottawa or Washington, but in Bismark, N.Dak., where, in the void created by federal inaction, officials are preparing to use state jurisdiction over natural resources to order the degasification of petroleum at the wellhead.
Chronic laxity by Canada’s transportation regulator is identified by the country’s accident investigator as the primary underlying cause of the July 6, 2013 derailment and explosion at Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, of a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic train carrying 7.7 million liters of mislabeled crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation to Irving Oil’s refinery at Saint John, N.B.
As part of its transformation from government marketing monopoly to privatized competitor, the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) has become the imminent owner of a work-worn 125-mile (200-km) short line connecting Saskatchewan growers and an Alberta petrochemical producer to a Canadian Pacific interchange at Swift Current.
Wednesday, 25 June 2014 14:35

Canada accelerates transportation review

Acknowledging that the country’s 19th century railway network and its regulatory regime are not up to the demands placed upon it by 21st century shippers, Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced July 25 an accelerated timeline for a comprehensive, arm’s-length review of transportation legislation.
Thursday, 19 June 2014 12:20

Canada TSB clears interim CBR reforms

Canada's transportation accident investigators gave the country's rail regulator, Transport Canada, a passing grade on interim emergency directives introduced in April to reduce the chances of crude oil train explosions such as that which devastated downtown Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on July 6, 2013.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014 12:41

Safety-driven railway realignments

As railroaders, regulators, suppliers, and crude oil shippers convene at the Railway Age Crude by Rail Conference on June 12, they may ponder the full range of proffered remedies to exploding oil trains: re-classification of Bakken crude from merely flammable to explosive; de-gasification before loading; better track and car maintenance; tighter operating rules; sharing of consist details with first responders; and, of course, more robust tank cars.
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