CN re-routing six freight trains through Chatham corridor until July 6

CN said Friday that it will re-route six freight trains per day through its Chatham corridor until July 6, while crews work on resolving a train derailment between Sarnia and Port Huron, Mich.

The six freight trains will be carrying a mix of different cargo

Crews removing automobiles from a train derailed between Sarnia and Port Huron, Mich. (Troy Shantz)

Via Rail is working with Canadian National (CN) to re-route six freight trains per day through Via's Chatham subdivision — which includes service through Tecumseh and Windsor — until July 6.

The route changes come in the wake of a train derailment that took place in the St. Clair River Tunnel between Sarnia and Port Huron, Mich. Friday morning. 

Crews removed the train's locomotive on Monday night. (Troy Shantz)

Approximately 40 rail cars were involved in the incident, with one car leaking roughly 52,000 litres of sulphuric acid as a result of the derailment. CN said it expects clean up of the sulphuric acid to conclude Monday

In a June 28 media release, Via said that the re-routed trains will run "during the day and at night on a temporary basis."

CN media relations director Jonathan Abecassis told CBC News via email that the "times of these trains will vary depending on available capacity between existing VIA and CP operations."

Abecassis stressed that the new routes are a temporary measure. 

Like the derailed train, the re-routed trains will carry mixed-manifest cargo, ranging from aluminum to personal automobiles. 

Tecumseh mayor Gary McNamara said he couldn't personally provide information on the cargo carried by the re-routed freight trains, but added that he surmises the rail cars are carrying "anything and everything."

"[CN does] own the Via Rail line, so they're going to be using … I believe the CP Tunnel in the meantime until the repairs are made in Sarnia," said McNamara.

Crews continuing work to clear derailment 

Of the more than 40 derailed rail cars, approximately 25 have been cleared, with 20 or so remaining. 

Crews have already removed the train's locomotive, which was substantially heavier than any of the train's other rail cars. 

CN has not issued a formal timeline regarding when the derailment will be completely cleared.

Investigators deployed, investigation underway

For their part, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) said Saturday that teams of investigators from both sides of the border have been deployed to determine the cause of the derailment. 

The TSB added that it will lead the investigation if it's determined that the "point of derailment is in Canada."

Canada's transportation safety watchdog said that access to the site is restricted due to the limited space available, as well as additional hazards present in the tunnel. 

Sarnia still waiting on answers

Sarnia mayor Mike Bradley says the city is still waiting to find out when the St. Clair River Tunnel can be reopened. 

Bradley explained there are cars on the Sarnia side of the tunnel.

He added that rail cars containing "passenger vehicles" are an additional source of frustration. 

Via's Chatham subdivision includes service through Tecumseh and Windsor. (Via Rail)

Earlier this morning, Sarnia fire crews put out a fire in a city rail yard owned by CN near the St. Clair River Tunnel.

The yard is being used to house automobiles removed from rail cars involved in the derailment. 

Though crews are crushing these vehicles to remove them from rail cars more easily, Sarnia fire platoon chief Bill Sheane said that each vehicle contains approximately five gallons of fuel, as well as an intact battery.

It's still unclear when the St. Clair River tunnel will be reopened. (Troy Shantz)

"As they're unloading them into the staging area, they catch fire," said Sheane. 

Bradley said that the tunnel itself is structurally sound, though he added that the derailed train prevented Sarnia firefighters from getting to the fire from the Canadian side.

With files from Angelica Haggert and Sameer Chhabra


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