LOCATION: EASTERN TOWNSHIPS, QUÉBEC
ISSUE/SOURCE: A SUMMARY OF CURRENT RAIL SAFETY OVERSIGHT IN THE LAC-MÉGANTIC AREA
DATE: JANUARY 12, 2021
- The safety and security of Canada’s railway sector is of the utmost importance to me. I am committed to ensuring that appropriate levels of safety are maintained.
- Since the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, numerous measures have been taken by Transport Canada (TC) to further improve rail safety, and the transportation of dangerous goods by rail, through regulatory and legislative reform.
- In the Fall of 2019, a Ministerial Order was issued to Central Maine and Quebec Railway to proceed with all necessary repairs identified in previous inspections, and implement new safety measures such as ultrasonic tests.
- Transport Canada continues to monitor the rail network, and will not hesitate to take measures as necessary to ensure rail safety.
IF PRESSED ON THE SUBJECT
- Transport Canada is aware that following the acquisition of Central Main & Québec Railway by Canadian Pacific, the company has been enhancing the state of the rail infrastructure, through a three-year capital investment, that started in the spring of 2020.
- On July 6, 2013, a Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway train carrying crude oil derailed causing 47 fatalities in downtown Lac-Mégantic, Québec. The population remains deeply concerned about rail safety.
- In 2014, Central Maine and Québec Railway purchased the assets of the bankrupt Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway, and began its rail operations after making significant investments to improve the rail infrastructure.
- Since the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, numerous measures have been taken by Transport Canada (TC) to further improve rail safety, and the transportation of dangerous goods by rail, through regulatory and legislative reform. For instance, implementation of enhanced securement requirements of unattended locomotives, equipment and trains; enhanced tank car standards; and application of speed restrictions for trains carrying dangerous goods through Census Metropolitan Areas.
- In May 2019, during a rail safety inspection on Central Maine and Québec Railway’s Sherbrooke Subdivision (Farnham to Lac-Mégantic), TC noted that the number of defective rails found in ultrasonic testing had increased compared to the previous year. A Notice and Order was issued requiring the company to increase the number of ultrasonic rail inspections. Central Maine and Québec Railway took immediate action to address the non-compliances found including applying speed restrictions where appropriate.
- On August 15, 2019, an active citizen’s group called the “Coalition des citoyens et organismes engagés pour la sécurité ferroviaire de Lac-Mégantic” sent a highly publicized letter to Transport Canada expressing concerns about the increase in track defects on the Central Maine and Québec Railway line in the Lac-Mégantic area. On September 5, 2019, the Coalition des citoyens et organismes engagés pour la sécurité ferroviaire de Lac-Mégantic sent a formal notice (mise en demeure) to TC asking the Minister to block the transportation of dangerous goods in the region until defective rails identified in the recent TC report are repaired.
- On September 6, 2019, a Ministerial Order was issued under section 32.01 of the Railway Safety Act, ordering the company to take actions to improve the safety of its rail operations on the Sherbrooke Subdivision. These actions included conducting an internal review of their certification and training program of track supervisors and repairing the defects at the locations identified in the order, no later than October 15, 2019. The company was also ordered to increase the frequency of Ultrasonic Rail Inspections.
- Between November 2019 and June 2020, Central Maine and Québec Railway conducted all necessary ultrasonic inspections as per the Ministerial Order. TC reviewed all actions taken, which showed that all identified defects were repaired and in compliance. Also, TC conducted an audit of Central Maine and Québec Railway’s Safety Management System and TC received the company’s corrective action plan.
- On July 6, 2020 the Coalition des citoyens et organismes engagés pour la sécurité ferroviaire de Lac-Mégantic sent a Formal notice (mise en demeure) demanding that the Minister conduct a complete and immediate inspection of the portion between Mile 1-2 (Sherbrooke Subdivision) of the track using a different and complementary technology than ultrasound, citing that this method cannot accurately identify certain defects in old worn rail, particularly micro-cracks. A correspondence acknowledging receipt of the Formal notice was forwarded by the Director General of Rail Safety to the Coalition.
- Since Canadian Pacific acquired Central Maine and Québec Railway, they committed to restoring the track on the Sherbrooke Subdivision to a condition aligned with its anticipated future operations.
- On November 16, 2020, Canadian Pacific advised TC that the company is in the process of raising the speed of the track to 40mph (Class 2 to Class 3 Track), on the Sherbrooke and Moosehead Subdivisions and that the company is reaching out to the communities to make them aware. The increase will occur progressively over these two subdivision and will be completed by December 2021. An initial increase over approximately 25 miles of track occurred at the end of November 2020.
- Between April 1 and December 3, 2020, TC conducted 36 inspections in the area (railtTrack, crossings, bridges, operations and rolling stock as well as follow-ups on minor derailements or citizen complaints).