Canadian National says it is committed to safer rail operations

by Canadian Shipper

Canadian National says it has taken significant steps over the past two years to improve rail operating safety on its non-signaled main tracks and will carefully study further safety measures for these lines.

CN was responding to a report released by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada regarding its investigation into the derailment of VIA Rail Canada Inc. passenger train 74 at Thamesville, Ont., on April 23, 1999.

The TSB report concludes that the VIA Rail train derailed because it encountered main track crossover switches at Thamesville that were lined and locked in the reversed position. The issues of liability for the derailment are before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice as part of on-going litigation. For that reason, CN currently cannot comment on evidence.

CN says it will carefully study the TSB safety recommendations directed at the Department of Transport, the Railway Association of Canada and provincial authorities, but says however that it is in full compliance with a Transport Canada directive issued Nov. 14, 2000, to major Canadian railroads.

The directive requires a crew member handling a switch in non-signaled territory to report the position of the switch to another employee before leaving the location. It also restricts speeds of trains approaching facing point switches in non-signaled territory- the speed limits are 45 miles per hour for freight trains (40 miles per hour for freights carrying special dangerous commodities), and 50 miles per hour for passenger trains.

To date, CN has also completed the $25-million installation of Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) on two of its high-speed rail lines in Ontario that accommodate passenger traffic, developed a $20-million plan to upgrade to CTC existing signaling on portions of its Toronto-London and Montreal-Quebec City high-speed main lines that accommodate passenger trains, started testing new technology designed to give train crews advance notice of switch positions in other non-signaled territory, installed higher-visibility switch targets on all non-signaled main-line track, introduced new communication requirements for train crews handling switches in non-signaled territory, and reinforced training and testing of train crews on rules and procedures governing switches in non-signaled territory.

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