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We learned from Lac-Mégantic, continue to drive towards goal of zero accidents: Railway Association

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Re: “Oil by rail: have the lessons of Lac-Mégantic been learned? No,” (The Hill Times, Feb. 1, p. 11). Bruce Campbell asks a fair question in his Hill Times op-ed. However, his answer is based on false information and so it follows that his conclusion is wrong.

First, Canada’s railway industry advocated vigorously and successfully for a higher-standard tank car to replace the DOT-111. We don’t have to wait until 2025 and are already seeing these tank cars in service today.

Second, railways are not permitted to operate trains with a single operator if they are moving dangerous goods.

Mr. Campbell is also wrong to suggest Canada’s railways are self-regulated. Railways in Canada must comply with the Railway Safety Act, dozens of regulations and hundreds of safety rules as part of Canada’s regulatory system. These rules have the full force of regulation and government inspectors have numerous enforcement tools at their disposal. Safety management systems (SMS) are an effective additional line of defence, as demonstrated by rail’s safety record since SMS regulations were introduced in 2001. Between 2004 and 2014, the freight sector’s accident rate—accidents in relation to workload—dropped by almost 50 per cent, even as railways transported more goods.

In May 2015, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) said it was “encouraged by the action taken to improve safety in the rail industry,” after seven of its recommendations received the highest rating of fully satisfactory. The TSB has also assessed all active Watchlist recommendations as satisfactory intent, indicating that the industry has made meaningful progress in these areas. Today, our industry’s success rate at clearing TSB recommendations stands at close to 90 per cent—tops among all transportation modes.

In the last three years, the rail industry and Transport Canada have taken concrete steps to improve rail safety. These actions address the concerns Mr. Campbell raises and other areas of rail safety including transparency, training and emergency response. Canada’s railways continue to make significant investments—more than $1.8-billion in Canada in 2014 alone—to ensure the safety of their infrastructure.

We learned from Lac-Mégantic, and continue to drive towards our goal of zero accidents.

Michael Bourque

President and CEO, Railway Association of Canada

Ottawa, Ont. 

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