Train derailment near downtown Calgary raises concerns

Calgarians are raising concerns about the dangers of train cars carrying combustible materials near residential neighbourhoods following the derailment of Canadian Pacific cars carrying flammable diluent on Wednesday.

CP tankers carrying flammable liquid derailed near inner-city neighbourhood

Calgary train derailment concerns

9 years ago
Duration 3:50
Calgarians are raising concerns about the dangers of train cars carrying combustible materials near residential neighbourhoods.

Calgarians are raising concerns about the dangers of train cars carrying combustible materials near residential neighbourhoods following the derailment of Canadian Pacific cars carrying flammable diluent on Wednesday.

"It is pretty concerning that it could happen again and that they're bringing these flammable liquids like two blocks from our house," said Inglewood resident Jilleen Wallins.

Some residents are planning to hold a protest in the inner-city community of Inglewood on Friday to voice their concerns.

Eight cars carrying flammable liquids came off the tracks as a slow-moving train was heading northbound out of the Canadian Pacific Railway's Alyth Yard in the city’s southeast around 5 p.m. MT Wednesday.

A natural gas line was also ruptured by the derailed cars.

One car reconnected to the tracks, so the Transportation Safety Board is investigating how seven tankers slipped off the rails — six of which overturned.

There were no leaks or injuries, but more than 140 homes were evacuated as a precaution for a few hours because of the incident.

Two major roads — Ninth Avenue and Blackfoot Trail — were also closed during rush hour, and transit routes had to be detoured near the area.

Calgary's mayor not happy

Calgary’s Mayor Naheed Nenshi was among the thousands of people trapped in the massive traffic jam that ensued.

Nenshi said he is concerned about dangerous goods moving through the city by rail during rush hour.

"That's not only something that is massively inconvenient for people, it's also massively dangerous as we have thousands and thousands of people going through this area and it again highlights the thing that municipal politicians have been saying for a very long time which is we need better regulation on the movement of trains through cities, and particularly the time of those movements," he said.

Nenshi isn't happy about another derailment in the city and he wants a meeting with CP's CEO Hunter Harrison.

"I want to have a good conversation about understanding what's being shipped, how it's being shipped, how we communicate and what CP is willing to do to make sure that danger to others is minimized," he said.

There were also some questions about exactly what the tankers were carrying.

"The eight cars contained a diluent, a diluting agent for pipelines, used also in the extraction and refining process of bitumen," said Ed Greenberg, a spokesman for CP.

But fire department officials said the substance is a volatile hydrocarbon that is more like natural gas.

Crews are still working on the cleanup. Fire officials say it is taking roughly four to six hours to move the product from each tanker into an empty car on an adjacent track because the tankers are pressurized.

Deputy fire chief Ken Uzeloc said firefighters are working with CP and its contractors to ensure the cleanup goes safely.

"And providing that backup protection in case something goes wrong, and we do get an ignition from the product, that we'll be there to do fire suppression if needed," he said.

3rd derailment in recent months

This incident marks the third time CP has had train derailment issues within Calgary in recent months.

In July, several cars carrying diluent derailed on the Bonnybrook rail bridge after it collapsed from underwater flood damage that went unnoticed by CP inspectors.

That incident sparked a debate over whether municipalities should have the authority to inspect railways crossing through city lines.

Railways are currently under federal jurisdiction and are not subject to municipal regulation.

A rail car also slipped off the tracks Sept. 10 at a crossing near the Alyth yard.

The rail yard has been a sore spot with surrounding neighbours. Residents living in the inner-city neighbourhood of Inglewood have long complained about noise from the Alyth yard.

Complaints intensified in recent years after CP consolidated train servicing work at the location, doubling the size of the operation that now runs longer hours.

Inner-city rail yard complaints

Federal regulators ordered Canadian Pacific Railway to take steps to curb the noise in early August.

"Everyone's had a rough summer, between the flood and the noise issues at the Alyth shops," said Ald. Gian-Carlo Carra, who represents the neighbourhood where the derailment occurred.

"People are frustrated."

  • Listen to his full interview on the Calgary Eyeopener

Carra said he thinks the city should be compensated by the rail company for the money it costs them to respond to the derailments. Costs for the most recent incident have not been tallied.

He also said it's time to lay out some new rules for the relationships between municipalities and rail companies.

"I don't think we can rely on friendly relationships, I think we have to rely on rules and regulations that govern the important relationship that a city like Calgary has with an important national industry like the rail," Carra said.

"We have to have a really serious conversation about that."

  • Here are some notable Calgary train derailments. Click on the icons for more details about the number of train cars involved, if there were injuries and if the incident resulted in a spill:
The lines on this map represent the rail tracks that run through Calgary. The brown lines belong to Canadian Pacific Railway and the blue dot represents where the derailment took place on Wednesday. The red lines show Canadian National Railway tracks. (Courtesy Canadian National Railway Company )