Tuesday, October 29, 2013

CN CEO: Safety must be an absolute priority

Written by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
Claude Mongeau, CN Claude Mongeau, CN
CN President and CEO Claude Mongeau, in a speech delivered Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013 to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce International Trade Day, said that Canadian railways have a solid record of improving their overall safety performance and remain committed to achieving further safety gains.

“The devastating rail accident in Lac-Mégantic last summer remains a sobering reminder that safety must be an absolute priority to prevent accidents from harming communities and the environment,” Mongeau said. “Rail safety is understandably under intense scrutiny as a result of the Lac-Mégantic accident. But as we engage in a review of what the rail industry can do to further improve safety, we should not lose track of the industry’s strong safety record and the significant improvement trends achieved in recent years. The fact is that railways’ main line accident rate per million train-miles declined by more than 40% between 2001 and 2012 as a result of sizable investments in rail infrastructure, improved safety processes, and a continuing focus on employee training and safety awareness.

“Another fact to keep in mind is that railways move hazardous materials with a high level of safety. A full 99.997% of rail movements of dangerous goods—many of which are essential to the North American economy and communities across the continent—arrive at their destination without a release caused by an accident.”

Mongeau said CN and the rail industry are responding proactively to the Lac-Mégantic accident by taking a comprehensive view on ways to achieve further safety improvements. Rail industry partners are also taking steps to ensure safe loading and unloading procedures, properly identify dangerous goods, and look at ways to improve tank car safety, he said.

Mongeau said CN understands that communities have the right to know more about the types of commodities moving their midst. “CN already works closely with communities by helping them prepare for and to respond to a possible dangerous goods transportation incident,” he said. “But we are doing more. We recently launched a comprehensive outreach program along our network to inform emergency responders and civic officials about the types of commodities that are moving through their communities and the relevance of those commodities to local economies. Our goal is to be transparent and underscore our commitment to provide emergency training and support communities in the event of a rail accident.”

Mongeau said regulators can also play a lead role in determining the future course of rail safety. “The rail industry is working closely with all regulators,” he said. “As we move forward in our review, I believe a fact-based, balanced, and consultative approach to any proposed regulatory changes will be vital to make sure we make sustainable progress. CN’s commitment to safety is unwavering, and we’re dedicated to working with all stakeholders who have an interest in making what already is a solid rail safety record even stronger.”