Train safety inspector positions cut in B.C. Interior

Just six weeks after a devastating train derailment and explosion in Quebec, one of Canada's major rail line operators is cutting more than half its safety inspectors in one B.C. Interior city.

CP Rail purging up to 6,000 workers in the next few years

A Canadian Pacific Railway employee walks along the side of a locomotive in a marshalling yard in Calgary in 2012. CP is cutting a number of positions, including four safety inspectors across the border in Cranbrook, B.C. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Just six weeks after a devastating train derailment and explosion in Quebec, one of Canada's major rail line operators is cutting more than half its safety inspectors in one B.C. Interior city.

Four of seven Canadian Pacific Railway inspectors, or 'Carmen', based in Cranbrook have been given layoff notices, and union official Bob Fitzgerald says that is a major safety concern — especially given what happened in Quebec on July 6.

"The quality of inspections and the frequency have got to decline," he said. "CP would be wise to take heed: what happened there — clearly, it can happen anywhere. They should think about that."

Fitzgerald said the outcome of a derailment in the region could be especially poor considering some of the trains that move through Cranbrook carry highly toxic material to the smelter in Trail.

Canadian Pacific, which is purging up to 6,000 workers in the next few years, did not want to comment on the Cranbrook layoffs specifically.

A company official did say in an email message that operating safely has been and will always be the company's main priority.

But Gerry Warner, a city councillor in Cranbrook, isn't satisfied.

"It certainly seems ironic, if not inexcusable with [rail] traffic increasing they are reducing the number of inspectors," said Warner.

After the summer, Warner said,  Cranbrook council may ask for a meeting with CP to talk about safety.

Last week, the province of Quebec added CP to a list of defendants that it says are responsible for paying for the cleanup of the disaster area in Lac-Mégantic, Que., and lawyers representing victims of the disaster named Canadian Pacific in a class-action suit.

Both suits allege CP bears some of the responsibility for the deadly derailment, as it was the main contractor that handed over responsibility for the crude oil tankers to the smaller Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway Ltd., which then operated the tanker train that jumped the tracks in Lac-Mégantic on July 6.

The disaster killed 47 people and prompted a mass evacuation, a criminal investigation, lawsuits, and concerns that the community of 6,000 might have to abandon its downtown core.

With files from the CBC's Bob Keating