Lac-Mégantic: Lisa Raitt announces rail safety rules based on crash findings

New requirements for hand brakes and other safety devices to ensure parked trains stay put are among the changes Transport Canada will enforce in response to the 2013 rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Que.

Transportation Safety Board report found 'weak safety culture' at Montreal, Maine and Atlantic railroad

An unattended 74-car freight train carrying crude oil ran away and derailed, resulting in the fire and explosion that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Que., in July 2013. (CBC)

New requirements for hand brakes and other safety devices to ensure parked trains stay put are among the changes Transport Canada will enforce in response to the 2013 rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Que.

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced that her department is recruiting 10 additional inspectors to do more audits and provide more information to municipalities about the rail cargo moving through their communities.

Rail companies found not in compliance will be held accountable, with new monetary penalties for failing to implement adequate safety management systems. 

"Canadians are never going to forget what happened in Lac-Mégantic," Raitt said Wednesday, reflecting on her own visit to the crash site.

"I'll never forget the strength and perseverance of the people who were there. My thoughts and prayers will continue to be with them as they continue to rebuild their community and go through their loss process."

"This past year has been difficult for everyone involved," the minister said, acknowledging the hard work of not only her department but also the town's mayor and other officials.

In August, Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said Transport Canada took seriously the Transportation Safety Board's final recommendations on the 2013 train derailment in Lac-Mégantic. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

Transport Canada is investing in new research on dangerous cargo such as the crude oil that exploded in tanker cars in Lac-Mégantic. A targeted inspection campaign will check how hazardous goods are classified and reported.

Certain railways, including short lines and smaller companies, will also now submit employee training plans to Transport Canada for review. An audit blitz is planned to find and remedy specific training gaps at these rail shippers.

Each rail company will have to designate an executive to be held accountable for compliance with federal safety regulations. CN and Canadian Pacific said in separate statements Tuesday they will comply with the new measures.

"Building a safety culture is a shared responsibility," Raitt told reporters. "This tragedy is a case where rules simply were not followed."

Lac-Mégantic mayor responds

Lac-Mégantic Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche says Transport Canada's new safety measures don't go far enough. (Radio-Canada)

Lac-Mégantic Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche said Wednesday that the new rules are a good start, but don’t answer all of her and the town’s concerns.

She said trains parked on a grade and left overnight should be monitored by someone on the ground.

Roy-Laroche also reiterated her request for a bypass track so trains would go around Lac-Mégantic's downtown area instead of through it. 

August report required action

The Transportation Safety Board's final report found a "weak safety culture" at the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, which "did not have a functioning safety management system to manage risks."

The investigator's final recommendations, released in August, pointing to a failure of hand brakes to secure the train on the night it rolled away and crashed into the heart of the community's downtown before exploding and killing 47 people.

MMA had gaps in training, employee monitoring and maintenance practices, the final report said.

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

Raitt's department issued an emergency directive immediately after the crash with new requirements for securing unattended trains. Trains with dangerous cargo were required from that point on to have at least a two-person crew.

The train that crashed in July 2013 had a one-person crew.

Part of Wednesday's announcement was an additional directive implementing minimum requirements for hand brakes and other physical defences, backed up by a ministerial order to ensure the directive becomes permanent.

In April 2014, the government responded to initial recommendations from the TSB by removing the least crash-resistant DOT-111 tanker cars from circulation. At the time, it also required the industry to do more route planning and make sure emergency response plans are in place for the transportation of high-risk hydrocarbons like petroleum products.

Raitt said the new measures announced Wednesday took into account not only the TSB recommendations from the summer, but also the findings of the federal auditor general, the federal commissioner for the environment and sustainable development and the Quebec coroner's office.