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Transport Canada wants specifics on how railways will manage equipment in winter

Plans are to include information on how railways will maintain air brakes in cold temperatures

A grain train runs through a field. (Photo: Shutterstock/indykb)

Transport Canada is now requiring railway companies to submit winter operating plans for their equipment, including how the railways will manage the maintenance of air brakes in very cold temperatures, as part of a broader effort to improve rail safety.

The new mandate aligns with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s recommendations related to a February 2019 derailment in Field, British Columbia, in which a Canadian Pacific (NYSE: CP) grain unit train derailed, killing three employees.

The railways’ submissions to Transport Canada should specify the actions the railways will take when temperatures are very cold, including implementing speed restrictions and performing enhanced inspections, in order to align with TSB’s recommendation to enhance inspection and maintenance requirements for brakes on steep grades in cold weather.

Also, starting in September, Transport Canada will launch a working group with railway companies to consider the design and safety parameters of automatic parking brakes in order to align with TSB’s recommendation to install automatic parking brakes on all freight cars, according to Monday’s news release. 

And following another recommendation by TSB, the Canadian government will launch targeted audits into the effectiveness of CP’s safety management and training regime, as well as conduct oversight on CP’s occupational health and safety committees to gauge CP’s ability to identify and address hazards.

TSB issued a final report on the 2019 derailment on March 31 of this year. 


The new regulations build upon actions that the Canadian government adopted following the 2019 incident, including proposing amendments to the Railway Employee Qualification Standards Regulations to modernize crew and supervisor training requirements sometime in the fall of 2022. Transport Canada is also expected to launch consultations on potential amendments to the Railway Safety Management System Regulations in August. 

In response to the new rules, CP said, referring to the three victims of the 2019 incident, “This is a tragedy that will never be forgotten and one which has strengthened CP’s unwavering commitment to safety across its entire operation. CP continues to mourn the loss of Dylan Paradis, Andrew Dockrell and Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer.”

The railway continued, “CP still has serious concerns about the inaccuracies and misstatements the TSB made in its investigation report and the news conference held on March 31, 2022 and has expressed those concerns to the TSB and Transport Canada directly. It is essential that TC’s regulatory actions are always based on facts and evidence. CP will work with stakeholders in the rail industry to explore meaningful opportunities to further improve safety in a manner that is scientifically-based and technologically sound. That includes engaging in discussions with TC, the Railway Association of Canada, and other industry stakeholders to assess the full magnitude of the challenges inherent with the TSB’s Recommendations.”

CP also said the audits and oversight give CP an opportunity to demonstrate its safety culture, and the effectiveness of its safety management system.

In April, CP said it disagreed with TSB’s interpretation of events in February 2019, which in turn could have influenced the board’s findings and recommendations. CP said then that both sets of crews were fully trained, qualified and certified, and they had experience with handling trains on mountain grades. The railway also said its safety management system met regulatory standards. 

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Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.

Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.
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