New rail regulations a 'knee-jerk' reaction, CP Rail boss says

The CEO of Canadian Pacific Railway says some of the new safety regulations for the railway industry have been a "knee-jerk" reaction.

Hunter Harrison says 'public discourse' needed before snap safety rules put in place

Hunter Harrison, the chief executive officer of CP Rail, told reporters at the railway's annual general meeting that many of the industry's new safety regulations have been a 'knee-jerk reaction.' (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The CEO of Canadian Pacific Railway says some of the new safety regulations for the railway industry have been a "knee-jerk" reaction.

During a speech to stakeholders at the railway's annual general meeting yesterday, Hunter Harrison said Ottawa should have consulted with the industry more before pushing through new regulations following several high-profile rail accidents over the past year.

"I just think that so far, what we've seen is kind of knee-jerk reaction, that we have to do something," he said. "Well, you know, I think you could have a dialogue and think about it and maybe have a public discourse about it before there's some snap reactions."

Harrison said he and others in the industry will continue working with officials in Ottawa and Washington to "deal with the situation."

Last month, the federal government announced new rules for the industry in response to recommendations made by the Transportation Safety Board in the aftermath of the Lac-Mégantic disaster.

Phasing out older tanker cars

The rules included a three-year phase-out of older tank cars used to transport crude oil or ethanol, as well as the removal of the "least crash-resistant" tankers from Canadian railways within 30 days.

Railway companies must now also have emergency response plans for all crude oil shipments in Canada, even if the shipment is just a single tank car.

Companies have also had to reduce the speed of trains carrying dangerous goods.

Harrison told reporters that while he supports Ottawa's decision to remove old tanker cars, he said there needs to be much more consultation with officials in the industry because of their expertise.

He also said train accidents are down 50 per cent this year and there has already been a big improvement in safety.

"We have not had a serious, major derailment in a long time and I think it's a result of the changing culture," he said. "People are more compliant with the rules, understand what needs to be done and so that's kind of the foundation of what we're building on."

Smoke rises from derailed railway cars, which were carrying crude oil, in downtown Lac Megantic, Que., on July 6, 2013. The incident resulted in 47 people being killed. (Canadian Press)

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