Edmontonians worry over safety after Quebec rail disaster

Days after a derailed train carrying crude oil exploded in a Quebec town, levelling its downtown and killing an untold number of residents, those living near railyards in Edmonton are wondering about their safety.

Canada needs to review rail safety, says Edmonton MP

A Canadian Pacific engine and car rumbles through the Strathcona neighbourhood in south Edmonton. (CBC)

Days after a derailed train carrying crude oil exploded in a Quebec town, levelling its downtown and killing an untold number of residents, those living near railyards in Edmonton are wondering about their safety.

"It does concern you what's going through here, that's for sure," said Don Burns whose son lives near the Canadian Pacific yards in Old Strathcona. "All these chemicals these days. You never know for sure what it is."

The Quebec incident has shone the spotlight on the contentious political debate over oil transportation, and Canada's rapidly expanding oil-by-rail industry which has seen a 28,000-per-cent increase over the past five years.

With limited pipeline capacity in Canada and North Dakota's Bakken region, oil producers are increasingly using railroads to transport oil to refineries on the East, Gulf and West coasts.

The Canadian Railway Association recently estimated that as many as 140,000 carloads of crude oil will be shipped on Canada's tracks this year. That's up from just 500 carloads in 2009.

The federal government needs to revisit rail safety across the country, Edmonton Stratchcona MP Linda Duncan said.

She points to the Quebec disaster, the bridge scare in Calgary where railcars carrying petroleum distallate came dangerously close to falling into the Bow River, and the Lake Wabamun derailment west of Edmonton in 2005 when nearly 200,000 litres of oil spilled into the lake.

"We've got communties built along these lines, we've got protected areas, and our precious waterways," Duncan said. "So it's time for the federal government to step up and figure how the heck we're going to better regulate our rail lines."

Duncan intends to table a private members bill in the fall to make rail traffic safer.

"The ball is in Stephen Harper's court, and his transportation minister, but I'm certainly going to get behind that and give them some ideas about what legislation we can have."

The transportation safety board has begun it's investigation into the Quebec explosion.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he's waiting for an investigation into the Quebec disaster to be completed before he considers any changes to the law.

With files from Canadian Press