Friday, March 07, 2008


Railway Safety Act Review

Three or four years ago, whenever we talked about the BC Rail Case on The Tyee, a BCRail trainman with a very direct, warm style of writing, would reach out with information or encouragement. He always signed his name in full: Don Falconer. Later, he was a great supporter when I established this web-site. "Good on you, Mary," he'd say. "You don't realize it yet, but what you're doing is important. Keep on going!" So, like a good train, I kept going. He tried to educate me about BCRail, about his years as a BCR trainman, about how the whole ethos had changed under CN ownership. He spoke constantly about unsafe working conditions. He was a caring man who loved the trains and their service to this province. That fiery crash mentioned in the following report, it didn't need to happen. Don and another trainman died in that crash, just as he had foreseen. - BC Mary.

Review of the railway safety act contains more than 50 recommendations
Mar, 07 2008

VANCOUVER/CKNW(AM980) - A federally-commissioned review of the railway safety act contains more than 50 recommendations.

The results were tabled in the House of Commons today ... after a series of public hearings were held across Canada last year.

Recommended changes include ensuring railways are held financially accountable for their mistakes, as well as asking transport Canada to clarify the difference between rules and regulations.

CN Rail has also been singled out as instilling a 'culture of fear and discipline' among workers.

The act has not been amended since 1999.

Transport minister Lawrence Cannon commissioned the review in 2006 after a series of high-profile derailments ... including a fiery crash that killed two CN workers near Lillooet and the devastating Cheakamus River spill near Squamish.

April 30, 2007

VICTORIA—New Democrat Transportation Critic David Chudnovsky is in Ottawa today to present a submission to the federal Standing Committee on Rail Safety.

“The Campbell government has ignored the environmental and safety concerns stemming from the dozens of train derailments since CN Rail began operating in our province,” said Chudnovsky. “I am taking my concerns to Ottawa and presenting to the standing committee to ensure the issues facing B.C. communities are addressed.”

“I have been pushing the provincial and federal government to investigate CN’s B.C. operations since 2005,” said Chudnovsky. “While the Campbell government are content to ignore the problems, I am not.”

The Standing Committee on Rail Safety was established in October 2006 in response to the series of high profile derailments in B.C. and Western Canada, including the spill of caustic soda into the Cheakamus River and the death of two CN workers near Lillooet.

Chudnovsky’s submission to the committee outlined two major concerns regarding CN’s operations: first, that CN was not prepared for the unique environment and topography of British Columbia when they bought B.C. Rail. And second, that after the sale of B.C. Rail, the primary rail line in B.C. was owned and operated by a multinational corporation whose priorities were focused more on its bottom line than on the public interest.

“The sale of B.C. Rail remains a contentious issue in this province, and for good reason,” said Chudnovsky. “Safety issues, concerns regarding maintenance standards and environmental disasters have been the legacy of the sale of B.C. Rail.”

Chudnovsky invited Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon to join him in presenting to the committee. “I expect the minister has unique insight into the sale of B.C. Rail and the conditions of that sale that would greatly aid the committee in its work. But the minister has declined that opportunity, showing once again that he doesn’t care about the safety and environmental concerns facing communities along the rail corridor.

“I look forward to the conclusions of the committee and expect that the results will spur improved regulations and safety considerations,” said Chudnovsky. “That is good news for British Columbians.”

Motion as adopted by the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities on October 31, 2006:

"That the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities conduct and in depth inquiry into rail safety in Canada and particularly recent CN rail accidents in British Columbia and Western Canada, including a derailment that caused a disastrous spill into Lake Wabamum, Alberta, and in British Columbia that caused an environmental catastrophe in the Cheakamus River, a locomotive accident that resulted in the deaths of two rail workers in 2006 and whether there is any correlation to the increase in rail accidents as a result of the transfer of the BC Rail line to CN.”



I, too, fondly recall Mr. Falconer's wise and sage commentary.

Thanks for continuing to remember him.

Here's hoping that one day you will be able to write a fitting tribute to his memory when we find out what really happened in the BC Rail deal.


So sad.
Hi Mary,

I remember reading wonderful stories about Don Falconer, for a couple of weeks after he died in that senseless accident. He was respected and loved by a lot a people. It is good to remember him.

I just wish that CN would mend it's ways or it's going to happen all over again. Only a matter of time.

This time I have it right... CN, not CP (sheesh,, such brain fade). Same story but a bit more detail.

Panel report knocks CN Rail's attitude to safety

By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canadian National Railway is hindering efforts to improve rail safety with a "culture of fear," according to a government report released on Friday.

The report, begun in 2006 in the wake of several high-profile accidents, said Canada's railways are safe, but it expressed concern that "overall safety" has not significantly improved since 1999 when regulations were last overhauled.

"We think it should have," said the panel set up by the federal transportation minister to review rail safety legislation.

The rail freight industry is dominated by Canadian National, the country's largest carrier, and No. 2 Canadian Pacific Railway, both of which also have significant operations in the United States.

Nearly all of the intercity passenger trains are run by Via Rail, a government-owned corporation.

The panel praised Via and Canadian Pacific for developing a "healthy safety culture," but took aim at Canadian National -- which is often credited by stock market analysts as being North America's most efficiently run major railway.

"CN's strict adherence to a rules-based approach, focused largely on disciplinary actions when mistakes are made, has instilled a culture of fear and discipline and is counter to an effective safety management system," the panel said.

A spokesman for Canadian National said the company was still studying the report and the panel's direct criticism, but noted CN's statistics on accidents and worker injuries indicate its record has improved over the past seven years.

"Our position is that CN has taken comprehensive steps to foster an effective safety culture at CN," Jim Feeny said.

The head of the Teamsters Canadian Rail Conference, which represents some employees at both railways, said he was pleased with the panel's comments.

"They were right on the mark in their assessment," Dan Shewchuck said.

The panel said railways should be required to obtain a rail operating certificate once they meet regulated baseline safety requirements, and regulators should be given the power to impose fines for violations.

In addition to CN and CP rail, Canada has more than 40 smaller railways.

So very, very nice to have these vignettes in remembrance of Don Falconer.

Let's hope that some day, his concerns for BCRail will be vindicated.

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