Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Vancouver Sun thinks there might have been a CN problem but it's all cleared up now. Woo hoo!


Brian Morton
Vancouver Sun
Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A collision between two CN Rail trains in Prince George on Saturday that resulted in a stubborn fire along the Fraser River has resulted in renewed calls for controls on how the rail company moves its freight.

However, a CN spokeswoman said late Monday that the company has finished its investigation and concluded the accident was caused by employee error. But when asked if the length of the train involved had contributed to the error, she said she couldn't go into details.

"Everything about the incident was part of the investigation, and we concluded it was employee error," Kelli Svendsen said in an interview. "The employee involved was an experienced manager who was also working in a unionized position doing this kind of handling. The Transportation Safety Board investigation is still underway, and we'll cooperate fully with them."

She refused to elaborate on how the employee had erred or what type of consequences the employee faces.

Svendsen was referring to a collision that caused a locomotive and three freight cars carrying gas and lumber to leave the track at a Prince George railyard at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. A fire that spread along the banks of the river was finally subdued at 5 a.m. Sunday.

Svendsen said that the derailment did not result in any of the gas entering the river.

"Our environment people and Environment Canada confirmed that no product entered the river," she said. "There is no sign of any product, [and] we do not expect any issues to arise."

Svendsen also said the Prince George incident resulted from moving cars within the railyard, "something we do every day." The collision involved one train with three locomotives and 53 cars, and a second train with two locomotives and 67 cars. No one was injured.

Earlier Monday, NDP transportation critic David Chudnovsky said that he had heard reports that CN Rail workers are under pressure to lengthen trains that should be 20 cars, "to 25 or 30 cars or even 50.

"They [CN] have chosen to operate the railway in a particular way. And that includes longer trains, a reduction in maintenance and safety standards, and reduced training. They're cutting corners by running trains that are too long. And they've reduced standards to make more money.

"We need much more aggressive leadership [in ensuring CN is operating safely]. I think the provincial government bears some responsibility because, from the beginning, they've made excuses for CN."

The accident happened almost two years to the day of the CN train derailment in the Cheakamus canyon, where a caustic-soda leak killed about 500,000 fish.

Last week, Environment Canada laid five charges against CN Rail over the environmental impact of the freight-train derailment in the canyon.

Two of the charges are under the federal Fisheries Act, the other three under the B.C. Environmental Management Act. The charges -- which come on the heels of a highly critical TSB report on the incident -- could result in up to $5 million in fines, according to provincial Environment Minister Barry Penner.

Chudnovsky said there have been "dozens and dozens" of derailments involving CN. He said that while there was some improvement in 2006 over 2005, "in 2007, the numbers have gone up.

"This is a pattern of problems that have gone on for years. It's of great concern to me and the people of B.C. It's the same old story. All we get from CN are excuses."

Chudnovsky said CN is making "enormous profits, hundreds of millions of dollars in each quarter," but is nevertheless reducing standards for safety and maintenance.

"I'm not in a position to know if the [booming] economy is having an impact on their need to increase volumes," he said. "But even if the economy means greater volumes, we expect them to run their operation in a safe and secure way."

Svendsen said that she couldn't comment on how B.C.'s economic boom, which is resulting in a flood of Asian imports and the outward flow of resource products, is impacting operations.

"We are a profitable company, but that allows us to invest in our network and make it safer."

CN reported net income of $516 million in the second quarter of 2007, up from a profit of $324 million in the first quarter but down from the second quarter of 2006, when net income was $729 million.

Svendsen also said CN has experienced a 20-per-cent reduction in main track accidents since 2005, while increasing capital spending on rail safety by 13 per cent.

Svendsen said the number of mainline accidents dropped from 79 in the period between January and August 2005 to 53 over the same period in 2006.

However, Svendsen said that number rose to 63 in 2007, although she maintained the increase was weather-related, including avalanches and flash floods in January.

Svendsen said that investigations to date have shown that "train length has not been shown to be a factor in any of the accidents."

Svendsen said CN has improved safety standards through such things as doubling the number of ultrasonic rail inspectors.


We have ultrasonic rails?

The YouTube videos of the crash scene are very good. Several more haved become available now, and will do a lot to keep the reporting honest. Just look at any of the videos and ask yourself if those steeply treed hillsides look like the CN Railyard. The best video: Head-on train collision by "SecondSight01".


The Prince George Newspaper of today has a picture of something burning in the water. and a column discussing the fire If CN keeps telling the same lie some folks might beleive them dl
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