Premiers call for tougher railway safety rules

Premier Alison Redford and her counterparts are calling on Ottawa to change the rules governing Canada's railways.

Calls follow derailment of petroleum-carrying cars in Calgary and deadly derailment in Lac-Mégantic

Alberta Premier Alison Redford addresses the media during the closing news conference on the final day of the Council of the Federation summer meeting in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., Friday. (Aaron Lynett/Canadian Press)

Premier Alison Redford and her counterparts are calling on Ottawa to change the rules governing Canada's railways.

The call follows two recent incidents on federally-regulated railways on opposite sides of the country.

"We expect a higher standard of care from corporate entities that are involved in transporting," said Redford, while in Niagara-on-the-Lake for the premiers' conference Friday.

She says they are hopeful that greater rigour and accountability can be added to the rail safety process to prevent accidents from happening in future.

In Lac-Mégantic, 47 people died after a train owned by the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic railway company derailed and exploded in the middle of the Quebec town. The town is now considering legal action because the company has ignored pleas to reimburse the millions in clean-up costs.

In Calgary, a Canadian Pacific train derailed after last month's floods damaged the 100-year-old Bonnybrook rail bridge. While the cars — five of which carried a petroleum product — did not fall into the Bow River below, it was later discovered that CP investigators missed scouring at the bottom of one of the support piers during their inspections of the bridge.

Railways are federally-regulated in Canada, meaning that municipalities do not have the authority to inspect them.

Premiers, Calgary mayor call for tougher rules

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi was critical about the fact there is no municipal control last month after the Bonnybrook collapse. He insinuated that cuts at CP Rail could have played a role in the bridge collapse.

CP Rail later denied the accusation, saying it had inspected the bridge and tracks on the Saturday and Monday after the flood hit Calgary.

However, Nenshi's comments made many Calgarians aware of the long-standing frustration between municipalities over lack of control of railway safety within city limits.

The premiers say they want federal regulations put in place that will identify and track all hazardous materials carried by rail in real time.

They also want rail companies to demonstrate they have adequate insurance to cover the cost of any disasters.

In Lac-Mégantic — a town of roughly 6,000 — clean-up costs have hit $4 million.

The town has had to pay for those out of its own pocket after the rail company declined to front the costs.