Railroad Settles Transportation of Dangerous Goods Case

New Brunswick Southern Railway pleaded guilty to two of the 24 charges of violating Canada's Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act. Through a settlement, New Brunswick Southern Railway agreed to pay $10,000 in fines and $40,000 to be invested in improving the safety of the transportation of dangerous goods in Canada.

New Brunswick Southern Railway, which had pleaded guilty to two out of 24 charges of violating Canada's Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, has agreed to a settlement that calls for it to pay $10,000 in fines and $40,000 to be invested in improving the safety of the transportation of dangerous goods in Canada, the country's transport minister recently announced. Minister Marc Garneau also announced that Irving Oil, charged with 34 counts of violating the act, also has agreed to settle, plead guilty to all counts, and pay assessed penalties that include $400,320 in fines and $3,599,680 to be invested in improving the safety of the transportation of dangerous goods.

The charges stemmed from Transport Canada's investigation following the July 2013 derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, of a train transporting crude oil. The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway train had been parked by its engineer on a section of main track on a descending grade. Firefighters were called to extinguish a fire in the locomotive after the engineer had departed. The firefighters turned off the locomotive, following U.S. railroad policy, which caused air holding the independent brakes to leak off. The train rolled downhill, traveled about 7 miles, and derailed in the center of Lac-Mégantic at 65 mph, with 63 tank cars derailing and nearly all of them being breached during the derailment. Almost 6 million liters of crude oil spilled and ignited.

The resulting fires and explosions killed 47 people and destroyed 40 buildings, 53 vehicles, and the railway tracks at the west end of Megantic Yard.

"As minister of Transport, my thoughts continue to go out to the community of Lac-Mégantic and all those affected by this tragedy. Today, we close another chapter in this tragic event through a settlement that we have reached with New Brunswick Southern Railway," Garneau said. "Rail safety remains my top priority. Transport Canada continues to closely monitor the safety of rail operations and the system, as well as the safe transportation of dangerous goods by all modes of transport across Canada."

The investigation was done with the assistance of the RCMP.

The train that derailed had traveled through Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, and Toronto on its way from New Town, N.D., toward its intended destination of St. John, New Brunswick, before it derailed. In its final report on the derailment, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said four "crucial indicators" showed the railroad did not have a functioning safety management system:

  • absence of an internal safety auditing process
  • weaknesses in the process for ensuring adequate employee training
  • weaknesses in the Operational Tests and Inspections Program that limited its effectiveness in identifying areas of non-compliance
  • inconsistently used risk assessment processes

In the report, TSB listed 18 contributing factors involved in the accident and called for additional physical defenses to prevent runaway trains and more thorough audits of safety management systems‎ to ensure railways are effectively managing safety.

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