Transportation Safety Board urges update of rail employee training

Gaps between regulations, job safety requirements

(Reuters) — The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) is urging the regulator to update rules for training railway employees after an investigation into the 2016 case of a Toronto runaway train found employees lacked the know-how to stop it.

“This investigation identified gaps between what is mandated by the regulations and what is required for some employees to do the job safely,” said TSB board member Faye Ackermans. “Transport Canada has been promising a regulatory update for years, as far back as 2003. Now is the time for action.”

The TSB’s recommendation to Transport Canada followed efforts between 2003 and 2009 that did not result in new rules for training because the 1987 regulations were never rescinded, Ackermans said.

Transport Canada spokeswoman Annie Joannette said that the regulator was “looking at ways to strengthen the railway employee qualification and training regime to reflect changes in an evolving railway industry.” Transport Canada will respond to the TSB, as required, within 90 days.

Incidents of uncontrolled train movements in Canada have risen 10 per cent, on average, over the last five years, since the 2013 explosion of a runaway train carrying crude that killed 47 people in the town of Lac-Mégantic, Que.

While the majority of incidents involving uncontrolled trains take place in rail yards, they are a concern for the TSB.

“They are low-frequency, but high-risk events,” said Rob Johnston, manager, railway investigations at the TSB.

In the 2016 incident, two conductors were trying to move a 9,000-ton train with 74 freight cars from a switching yard to an industrial yard. The train ran uncontrolled for about 4.8 kilometres and reached almost 48 kilometres per hour before stopping on its own without causing injuries or releasing dangerous cargo.


This article originally appeared in the October/November 2018 issue of COS.