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Railways to appeal federal order on train braking

Ministerial order followed fatal grain train crash last month

CP locomotive
(File photo by Dave Bedard)

A ministerial order requiring railways to apply handbrakes on trains stopped on mountain grades is the subject of an appeal by Canada’s big two railways.

Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) said Friday it will appeal the Feb. 8 order, which federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau issued following the Feb. 4 fatal crash of a grain train in the Rockies near Field, B.C.

The order, which Garneau said at the time will stay in effect “as long as necessary,” mandates the use of handbrakes, should a train be stopped on a mountain grade after an emergency use of its air brakes.

“Safety is one of our foundational principles and we remain laser-focused on continued improvement in this area,” CP CEO Keith Creel said Friday in a release.

However, he said, “the application of handbrakes in accordance with the ministerial order introduces additional risks and will have unintended consequences. We are seeking a review of the ministerial order because we firmly believe safer options are available and we must get this right.”

The review of the order, CP said, will be heard by the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada. Meanwhile, the company said, it “has and will comply with the ministerial order throughout the process.”

Calgary-based CP noted its Montreal counterpart, Canadian National Railway (CN), is also appealing Garneau’s order, as is the Railway Association of Canada.

The company said it “remains committed to continuing to have further dialogue with Transport Canada and other stakeholders to explore safer alternatives.”

Three CP employees died in the Feb. 4 derailment and crash, in which a westbound train of 112 grain hopper cars with three locomotives stopped for a crew change before the entrance to the Upper Spiral Tunnel near Field, about 20 km west of Lake Louise, Alta.

The train’s new three-man crew had boarded but weren’t yet ready to depart when the train — on which the emergency brakes, but not the handbrakes, were applied — “began to move on its own,” the federal Transportation Safety Board (TSB) said at the time.

The train accelerated to well over the 32 km/h limit for the track’s grade and curves, and derailed on a curve leaving just 13 cars and the tail-end locomotive on the line.

The ministerial order, Garneau said at the time, was issued “as a precaution until such time that the exact cause of the accident is determined.” The TSB’s investigation of the crash continues. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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