CP Rail alleged to have breached safety protocols

The Globe and Mail | June 22, 2015 | Column by Kat Sieniuc

The president of the union that represents rail workers is alarmed by allegations in court documents that a CP Rail manager may have ordered a conductor to breach safety directives and park a train carrying dangerous goods in the mountains of British Columbia without hand brakes – directives introduced after the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster.

Transport Canada started looking into the incident after a CP employee sent an e-mail about the order to her union, the documents say. (Peter Power For The Globe and Mail)

A search warrant filed in the Provincial Court of Alberta by Transport Canada alleges Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. superintendent Mark Jackson ordered conductor Stefaney Pacey to leave 57 cars unattended near Revelstoke, B.C., without first applying the hand brakes. Transport Canada started looking into the incident after Ms. Pacey sent an e-mail about the order to her union, the documents say.

None of the allegations have been proved in court, and charges have not been laid. The search warrant was filed by Robert W. Blair, a Transport Canada public officer.

“It seems like it’s a ‘work now and grieve later’ situation in terms of a rule and regulation, and that’s alarming to me,” said Doug Finnson, the president of Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, the union that represents CP workers. “It’s particularly alarming given a train in the mountains. It’s not like it’s in Moose Jaw, Sask.,” he said.

News of the investigation comes on the eve of the two-year anniversary of the Lac-Mégantic disaster – the oil train explosion that levelled much of the Quebec town and killed 47 people – and months after Transport Minister Lisa Raitt issued emergency rules, including new requirements for hand brakes.

Transport Canada confirmed they initiated the warrant but would not comment on the investigation.

Ms. Raitt’s office refused to comment on Monday, but the minister said in an e-mailed statement that “if companies are found to break our rules, they will face the full force of the law.”

The information to obtain the search warrant says Ms. Pacey was assigned to move the train and leave it unattended in a “high risk location” near Revelstoke, which would require that hand brakes be applied. Ms. Pacey told the rail traffic controller via radio that there wasn’t enough time to secure the brakes, but she was directed to not apply them anyway.

“[Ms.] Pacey stated that the Train 401 standing cut included railway tank cars carrying dangerous goods,” the documents say.

Transport Canada investigators allege radio voice recordings and e-mails proving the violations are located in a CP building in Calgary.

Revelstoke’s fire chief and emergency management program co-ordinator, Rob Gerard, was not notified of the investigation until a CBC reporter brought it to his attention. He said the city would like to know about potentially dangerous incidents like this sooner.

“I’m not sure whether or not they would have notified us, but we would like to know these things when they do happen for sure,” he said.

Mark Winfield, an expert on Canada’s railway regulations from York University, says it’s unusual for Transport Canada to be doing an investigation, based on its poor overall record of enforcing the Railway Safety Act. Since 1997, the agency has made just eight prosecutions.

“This has not been a vigorous enforcement regime, to put it mildly.” he said. “Prosecutions have definitely been the exception, not the rule.”

One way to beef up enforcement, Mr. Winfield said, is to put more inspectors in the field and give them more investigation and prosecution capacity.

He also suggests making company officers and directors personally liable in the case of violations.

“There has to be a credible threat that violations are going to lead to prosecutions,” he said. “In this system at the moment, I don’t really think you could describe what exists as a viable threat.”

But since no other changes to safety legislation have been announced, he said he hesitates to interpret this current investigation as a signal of major change to how Transport Canada enforces railway safety.

“The railways to a large extent are writing their own rules,” he said.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/cp-rail-alleged-to-have-breached-safety-protocols/article25069648/

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commented 2015-07-02 13:51:25 -0400 · Flag
Trains have been writing their own rules for 200 years and the governments of Canada and the US have allowed them to do so.
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CP Rail alleged to have breached safety protocols
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