Lac-Mégantic reports leave Windsor officials wanting changes

A pair of new reports released this week outlining what went wrong in the deadly Lac-Mégantic, Que. derailment in 2013 has officials in Windsor demanding more transparency in the rail industry.

The city has 55 kilometres of rail lines with more than 11, 000 homes near by

Windsor will not sign an agreement with rail companies that contains a confidentiality clause on what's being carried in rail cars through the city.

A pair of new reports released this week outlining what went wrong in the deadly Lac-Mégantic, Que. derailment in 2013 has officials in Windsor demanding more transparency in the rail industry. 

The Transportation Safety Board report, which came out Tuesday morning, stated problems like gaps in training, employee monitoring and maintenance practices, contributed to last year's runaway train explosion.

The report also found that Transport Canada did not audit the company often and thoroughly enough to ensure safety procedures were being followed.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report released Monday said the tragedy happened in part because of lax regulations, a cozy relationship with the rail companies, the allowance of one-man crews and failure to heed years of TSB concerns about the safety of DOT-111 tanker cars. 

All the findings have officials in Windsor wondering if a rail disaster like that could happen locally.

Windsor is one of the only cities who has refused to sign an agreement with rail companies that contained a confidentiality clause on what was being transported in the rail cars. 

I don't understand in today's world why we can't get current time information to the emergency coordinator. The rail lines know what's on their line at every moment.
- Jo-Anne Gignac, Windsor City Councillor 

City Councillor Jo-Anne Gignac heads Windsor's Rail Safety Committee.

She said there are 55 km of rail lines in Windsor and that approximately 11, 200 homes are within 300 metres within those rail lines. Five hundred of them are directly on the way. 

"That's 12 per cent of all the dwellings in the city of Windsor and as representatives of the people, we feel very strongly that we should push for the best agreement that we can get in terms of information that would be provided our coordinator." 

She thinks the city's coordinator of emergency response should be provided current time information so responders would have the proper equipment and training to deal with any kind of potential emergency. 

Gignac said her main concern with rail companies and Transport Canada is that they proposed to give out information of goods that were being carried through the city months ago instead of what's currently expected to come through. 

"I don't understand in today's world why we can't get current-time information to the emergency coordinator," she said. "The rail lines know what's on their line at every moment, they have to, from the time it leaves the yard of the company that want's to transport dangerous goods the rail companies know where those shipments are."

City is prepared as can be, says fire chief

Windsor Fire Chief Bruce Montone won't comment on the CCPA report, or on what he thinks will be in the TSB report released Tuesday, but he says he has faith in the results that come out.

"Certainly, you know, if you look back at the recommendations that have come forward thus far I think the TSB has been quite effective," said Montone. 

Transport Canada has enacted several changes to rail safety legislation including banning one-man trains, and toughening standards for rail tanker cars and brakes since the disaster Lac-Mégantic last summer.

Montone said the negotiations with the rail companies is still in the works, but until the city signs the agreement, he and other officials in Windsor are not getting historical information on what and how much of the hazardous goods are being transported through the city. 

Still, Montone said the department is ready if an emergency were to happen. 

"We're as prepared as we can be given the resources put to the issue," he said. "Certainly the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act and the placarding that is required is really what provides us with the best...first information that we require if we were arrive on scene at an incident."


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