Sudbury

CN track infrastructure faults under TSB's microscope

Two unions say the Transportation Safety Board is highlighting faults in track infrastructure in three recent train derailments.

Number of inspectors has dropped from 20,000 to 3,000 over the last two decades, union official says

Pictured is a piece of track from the March 7 Gogama, Ont., train derailment site. The Transportation Safety Board points to the broken rail and wheel flange damage to the top of the joint bar. (TSB)
A section of track from the latest derailment near Gogama is under scrutiny as the TSB continues its investigation. Brian Stevens, National Rail Director for Unifor, provided some insight into track maintenance and rail inspections.

Two unions say the Transportation Safety Board is highlighting faults in track infrastructure in three recent train derailments.

They both say faster, heavier trains are pushing the limits of the rails.

The Transportation Safety Board​ is analyzing a failed joint taken from the bridge where a CN train derailed on March 7, near Gogama, Ont.

A top view shows the collapsed bridge from the March 7 Gogama train derailment site. (TSB)
The national rail director with Unifor says the board is considering joint failure in this and two other recent derailments.

"The TSB will hopefully determine whether there's a systemic failure here in either maintenance standards, or maybe there's a requirement to provide more regulations on track inspection and maintenance," Brian Stevens said.

He added there are fewer people checking the rails, and said the number of inspectors has dropped from 20,000 to 3,000 over the last two decades. Rail companies are relying on technology instead, he said.

"Whether they're using more way-side detectors, impact detectors, hotbox detectors, track geometry, [they’re] relying on these reports to demonstrate to Transport Canada [that] we don't need boots on the ground."

Doug Finnson, president of the Teamsters Rail Conference of Canada, which represents CN workers, says his union is hoping real change to the rail industry comes from the latest fiery accident in Gogama. (tcrc320.org)
The train had been obeying an order limiting speed, but the president of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference says it was still going too fast.

Doug Finnson said companies want trains to be longer and go faster.

"They speak of a maximum amount of trains moving across and so, if they increase the speed, increase the length and increase the weight, they make more money, obviously.”

CN said in a statement it has enhanced inspection procedures on the northern Ontario rail corridor.

Read the TSB report here.

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