CP Rail, managers charged over B.C. mountain train left 'without handbrakes'
Managers accused of ordering train crew to park freight train on slope above Revelstoke
Officials in British Columbia have laid a series of charges accusing CP Rail and two senior managers of illegally ordering a freight train crew to park on a mountain slope above the town of Revelstoke without proper handbrakes applied.
The train incident was first revealed by CBC News after Transport Canada investigators conducted a series of raids on CP Rail's Calgary headquarters looking for evidence.
The warrants allege that in February 2015, the crew aboard a freight train of 57 loaded rail cars, some carrying dangerous goods, was ordered to leave their train unattended in the dark on a siding above Revelstoke without applying handbrakes.
The warrants allege it was in direct breach of emergency directives made by Canada's transport minister after the Lac-Mégantic disaster.
Several weeks ago, officials in B.C. laid the charges under the Railway Safety Act against the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, as well as then-superintendent Mark Jackson and Tim McClelland ,a manager based in Calgary involved in sending radio orders the night of the alleged incident.
Eve of strike at CP Rail
The incident on Feb. 15, 2015, occurred as CP was scrambling to park and lock down its trains before a pending labour stoppage.
The conductor and engineer were running out of time near the end of their shift, according to documents filed in court.
The crew was directed to leave 57 cars on the main track without handbrakes, the warrant asserts. Sources say it was to allow the crew to move the tankers carrying fuel to a siding to be parked and secured.
The conductor and engineer, both relatively junior employees, questioned the order coming from the radio operator, sources say, but they were overruled.
They were "informed that the direction came from Mark Jackson, then employed as superintendent, B.C. Interior Division, Canadian Pacific Railway," states the search warrant.
CBC News has been unable to reach Jackson since the charges were laid, but when contacted more than a year ago at CP's Cranbrook, B.C., office Jackson insisted he'd done nothing that was unsafe.
"I can tell you at the time, based on the info that was provided, it was going to be a safe move. I know myself I've been cleared of any wrongdoing in this," Jackson told CBC News at the time.
Fired and suing
In the end, the train parked unattended was safely retrieved and later moved.
Jackson has since been fired by CP Rail, and he is suing the company over his dismissal.
CP has refused to comment on the firing and won't talk about the recent Railway Safety Act charges.
"As this matter is before the courts, we have no comment," Martin Cej, CP assistant vice-president of public affairs, told CBC news in a brief emailed statement.
If convicted, CP Rail could face a fine of up to $1 million.
Jackson and McClelland each face a maximum penalty of fines of $50,000 per count and up to six months in jail.
The accused are all due in court in the town of Revelstoke on Feb. 1.