Author: David Thomas

Brake Defects Plague Canada’s Aging Grain Cars

Hard-to-detect braking system defects have rendered Canada’s aging fleet of grain hoppers a safety hazard, says a former director of derailment investigations for the country’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB), the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. NTSB. Ian Naish, who retired from the TSB in 2009, in a CBC interview posted May 15, declared, “The grain car fleet overall is quite defective.”

Double Trouble in Saskatchewan

On Feb. 6—the second time in less than two months—a Canadian Pacific tank car train carrying Alberta bitumen diluted with highly volatile petroleum gases derailed near the tiny town of Guernsey, Sask. The derailment created an explosive fire and prompted the evacuation of more than 80 nearby residents.

UPDATED: Transport Canada Slow-Orders Crude Oil Trains; CN Embargoes Traffic

Following a second unexplained derailment and rupture-caused explosive fire of a crude oil train in rural Guernsey, Sask., Transport Canada ordered Feb. 6 a 25-mph limit on the speed of oil trains, dropping in metropolitan areas to 20 mph. The Federal Railroad Administration is monitoring Canada’s investigation to determine whether additional regulatory measures should apply once those oil trains cross the border on their way to U.S. refineries. As well, CN has embargoes, for 30 days, permits for certain TIH (toxic inhalation hazard) trains, citing the slow order’s impact on its network.

Trudeau Election Prospects Founder with SNC-Lavalin Scandal

Adding to the flotsam swirling around the once-unsinkable SNC-Lavalin, the engineering company’s credit rating went overboard Aug. 20 when S&P Global Markets downgraded its debt to junk. This followed, by days, the ruling of a federal ethics watchdog that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke conflict-of-interest law when he tried to spare the company from prosecution for bribery.

Alberta looks to dump multi-billion-dollar tar sands trains

Government oil trains were to start running Alberta’s glut of sludgy bitumen to foreign markets July 1 under a US$2.8 billion contract committing provincial taxpayers to the leasing of 4,400 tank cars and guaranteed payments to CN and Canadian Pacific. For the time being, they will be costly ghost trains that earn the railways real money for no haulage.

Red-over-green for VIA Rail’s high-frequency corridor

After five years of internal planning, VIA Rail’s vision of a dedicated, high-frequency passenger railway from Quebec City to Toronto has secured the backing of the new Canada Infrastructure Bank. A C$55 million investment by the bank was announced June 25 for final pre-procurement planning, including the engineering of technical inter-operation with existing commuter lines in Montreal and Toronto.