Train derailment and explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Québec

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autoworker autoworker's picture

Where was the conductor of this train? I'll I've heard about is the engineer (scapegoat).

KenS

I was incorrect above BTW.

Turns out the Saint John refinery did build a rail terminal last year. So that train was headed directly to Saint John, not for tidewater in Maine.

 

Interesting to see what Irving does to get oil it has already purchased in North Dakota. They could be looking now to run those trains now on the long CN Quebec and NB mainline. Or continue using the MMA [if allowed and they are willing to have the attention] and branching off east of Magog for transhipment by tanker from Portland, ME.

KenS

Is this track now owned by MMA what the old VIA train [the Ocean?] used to run over?

There is the one we still have through NB to QC [over Maine] on CN tracks.

And there used to be on what I thought was CP track, and shunted you SLOWLY through Maine from St. John.

But it would appear the track has never been CP track.... that CP just ran its trains on the then Bangor & Aroostook. Correct?

Pondering

What I found interesting is that there were five locomotives and one driver. There should never be one driver as one driver can have a heart attack or stroke or other medical emergency.  I would say at the very least there should be one driver per locomotive.

jerrym

Ken Burch wrote:

Mr. Burkhardt, the rail company owner, threw one of his employees under the bus today in front of the media...obviously, it's about getting the company off of the hook for any liability.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/07/10/quebec-train-crash-b...

That won't work legally as a company is legally responsible for the actions of its employees. 

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

jerrym wrote:

That won't work legally as a company is legally responsible for the actions of its employees. 

I truly wish that your view was the reality. The company will be on the hook for some of the disaster but it remains to be seen what amount of insurance coverage they carried and whether there are any assets backing whatever corporation was actually legally responsible for the train's operation. I will bet that the paper trail of personal liability will end long before it gets to the corner cutting owner who has already been responsible for death and destruction in other communities..

jerrym

kropotkin1951 wrote:

jerrym wrote:

That won't work legally as a company is legally responsible for the actions of its employees. 

I truly wish that your view was the reality. The company will be on the hook for some of the disaster but it remains to be seen what amount of insurance coverage they carried and whether there are any assets backing whatever corporation was actually legally responsible for the train's operation. I will bet that the paper trail of personal liability will end long before it gets to the corner cutting owner who has already been responsible for death and destruction in other communities. My argument was simply that blaming the employee will not by itself provide an escape from a legal judgement against it.

I did not say that they could confiscate the owner's assets outside the company or even necessarily the all the company assets (which could be relatively meager compared to the parent corporation) or that the company could have part of the legal judgment costs could not be covered by insurance. 

jerrym

Finally, Transport Canada is looking into whether any train should be allowed to operate as a one-man operation. The MMA, which was responsible for the Lac Megantic accident, was one of only 2 Canadian railways allowed to do this. Notice how the MMA owner tries to have it both ways, arguing one-man trains (and thus his railway) are safer and the accident was the one man operator's fault. How ridiculous can you get?

Quote:
 

Transport Canada has confirmed that the use of a single crew member on the train that led to the devastation July 6 in Lac-Mégantic is part of the investigation by the Transportation Safety Board. ...

According to Bourdon, Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway, whose 72-car train derailed and exploded in the centre of Lac-Mégantic, was one of only two railway companies to operate with one-person crews in Canada. The other is the Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway.

Edward Burkhardt, chief executive officer of Rail World Inc., which owns the MMA, defended the use of a one-person crew during his visit to Lac-Mégantic Wednesday, saying, “We actually think one-man crews are safer than two-man crews because there’s less distraction.” Burkhardt nonetheless blamed the one crew member, who has been identified as Farnham resident Tom Harding, saying he had been suspended.

 

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/Mégantic+investigation+person+train+crew+under+scrutiny/8645614/story.html

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Sorry Jerry I didn't mean to imply you did. Corporations routinely blame their employees for accidents.  This owner was criminally negligent and it caused deaths. He should be charged but he will not be. I make that bold accusation based on his company's operating history. 

I just read in my local paper that Chevron started running oil trains into Burnaby this May.  Nobody asked us residents whether they wanted a new hazardous material being transported through our back yards.

The tragedy in Quebec has gotten our local council at least asking the right questions about the transport of dangerous goods by rail. It seems that the 8 to 10 cars a day currently being transported could be increased to 800 a day or 8,000 a day and the local government would not have any say in the matter.

Quote:

Meanwhile, in response to the Quebec incident, Burnaby council has asked city staff to report back on rail tank cars carrying oil and other hazardous goods through the city as well as city hall's relationship with the railways.

Coun. Nick Volkow noted that city hall generally hits roadblocks when trying to liaise with railway companies who operate in the city, despite many rail lines running close to some residential areas.

Due to the Canadian Railway Act, "railways basically operate like the old feudal kings and we in municipalities are treated like serfs and peasants," Volkow said. "That's gotta change."

In a four-year period there has been a 28,000 per cent increase in the volume of crude oil transported by rail tank cars, he said. Yet, the city doesn't have any say on the railways' operations.

During the recent heavy flooding in Calgary, that city's Mayor Naheed Nenshi pointed out he had no say when a railway decided to move dangerous cargo over a bridge, during which the bridge collapsed, Volkow said.

http://www.burnabynewsleader.com/news/215107911.html

KenS

The provinces have the tools to require anything of the railroads.

For all the good that does us. Except POSSIBLY in Quebec- and even then, primarily because that is where a disaster happened.

And even presuming Quebec substantially tightens up the regulations [and the feds]- how likely do you think it is they will conferr ANY powers to the municipalities? [Even right to know reporting regulations.]

quizzical

in BC CN has total control 'cause what's Clark going to do about it? they own her.

 

autoworker autoworker's picture

Pinching myself, it's hard to fathom how one person can be engineer, conductor, and brakeman of a train of five locomotives, hauling hazardous cargo, in 72 railcars (DOT 111's) that are known to rupture. It boggles the mind how this is permitted.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

That person can be if the corporation that makes her or him do all those jobs at once(receiving only one paycheck for the work of three, and a small paycheck into the bargain)is THAT fixated  with employing as few people as possible and has that many friends in high places to make sure that there aren't any pesky regulations requiring the company to have the proper number of people working on a train like that.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

KenS wrote:

The provinces have the tools to require anything of the railroads.

Only intra provincial rail lines. Any interprovincial or international lines are federally regulated. 

KenS

I do not know for sure. But I think that the provinces can have more restrictive regulation on transport through their borders.

The Canada Transported Dangerous Goods Act for example is the main regulation. But most people, if they know about it, think it is the only legislation. But all the provinces also have a TDG Act. 98% is the federal Act boilerplated [using all the categories and definitions]. But the provinces add their own twists.

Unionist

Unfortunately, kropotkin is exactly correct. Provinces have zero say over any transportation except that which does not regularly extend beyond their borders. That leaves almost all rail safety within the sole hands of the heartless Harper bastards.

autoworker autoworker's picture

Indeed, the same tight-assed government that pushed aside both nuclear safety regulations, and regulator, to keep the aging Chalk River plant running and producing isotopes, without a safety backup system. Then, there's the meat inspection scandal. What will it take for Harper to meet his Walkerton?

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

There's a huge forest fire between Havre-St. Pierre and Natashquan, and the smoke has been drifting here for the past day or so - and last night the power was off for 14 hours - hydro lines are burning up, transformers are blowing, and switchers are getting overheated. The power came back on around 9am, but has been going off and on throughout the day. If we get much more smoke blowing this way, we probably will have to do some planning.
 
The town near the fire was evacuated:  Feux de forêt : les résidents de Baie-Johan-Beetz évacués     

 

(sorry for the thread drift - didn't know where else to put this)

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Newly-promoted Lisa Raitt (Transport Minister) visited the town today and, beause she has limited French, kept her comments in that language brief. Then, in English, she promised federal aid - but I think she added a caveat of some sort - yes the feds will pay (I think it will be 90%, same as what the feds have promised for Alberta), but they need the investigations or something to be done first. I'm not sure of the specifics.

Lise Riatt is not a favourite of mine - no one in the Harper caucus is - but she's a union-buster.

ps: our hydro was off 14 hours last night, will be off from 12 noon Wednesday rightil late Friday or Saturday - the local forest fire has made a real mess of everything. I'm taking a break to post on babble for a few days until this is over.

Unionist

Great to see you back, Boom Boom, despite the context of natural and human-made disasters.

 

cco

Saw this story on CBC today about CN and CP "tightening" regulations, which included this telling quote:

CBC wrote:
The rail carrier says it has updated its safety procedures in three ways:

...Train brake-setting procedures have been strengthened to meet or exceed all regulations regarding brake setting.

Emphasis mine. In other words, by implication, CP's existing brake-setting procedures did not already meet regulations.

Unionist

This is unbelievable:

[url=http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2013/07/18/transport-canada-rail-s... Canada mum on rail safety rules: Companies won’t share details following Lac-Mégantic rail disaster[/url]

Quote:

Transport Canada won’t say what the minimum requirements are for making sure a parked train won’t roll away and it won’t disclose the rules set by the rail companies for keeping unattended trains with potentially dangerous goods stationary.

The CBC asked Transport Canada to clarify the rules for tying down a train a few days after the Lac Megantic tragedy. More than two days later, the response ignored the specific request for minimum requirements and referred to the Canadian Rail Operating Rules. [...]

Eight days after the initial request, Transport Canada continues to rebuff CBC's inquiries with vague answers.

Read the whole article. The media are finally starting to ask the right questions.

 

jerrym

Unionist wrote:

This is unbelievable:

[url=http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2013/07/18/transport-canada-rail-s... Canada mum on rail safety rules: Companies won’t share details following Lac-Mégantic rail disaster[/url]

Quote:

Transport Canada won’t say what the minimum requirements are for making sure a parked train won’t roll away and it won’t disclose the rules set by the rail companies for keeping unattended trains with potentially dangerous goods stationary.

The CBC asked Transport Canada to clarify the rules for tying down a train a few days after the Lac Megantic tragedy. More than two days later, the response ignored the specific request for minimum requirements and referred to the Canadian Rail Operating Rules. [...]

Eight days after the initial request, Transport Canada continues to rebuff CBC's inquiries with vague answers.

Read the whole article. The media are finally starting to ask the right questions.

 

This is Kafkaesque. Even though the rules governing rail transport and their enforcement can literally mean the life or death of not only individuals and communities or large parts of them, as seen in Lac Megantic, we have no right to know what those rules are and to what extent they are being enforced? I agrue that people and communities need to engage in peaceful civil disobedience by blocking rail lines through Canadian communities until such rules are transparent and enforced. 

Geoff

If the train had been carrying windmills, instead of oil....  Oh wait, windmills are dangerous.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Lac-Mégantic:
A Social and Ecological Tragedy The Ecosocialist Network

Québec has just experienced the most brutal ecological catastrophe of its history. On July 6, 2013, a train loaded with 72 cars carrying crude oil derailed during the night. It exploded in downtown Lac-Mégantic, a small municipality (pop. 6000) in the Eastern Townships. A series of explosions and a fire completely destroyed more than 30 buildings including the municipal library, the town's archives, heritage buildings, businesses and residences. Police have confirmed that 50 people were killed by the blast.

The accident also destroyed a central water line, forcing the people of Lac-Mégantic to boil their water. It is estimated that 10,000 litres of oil leaked into Mégantic lake and the Chaudière river, a river that crosses Beauce before it enters the St. Lawrence. This threatens several other municipalities that rely on these watersheds, including the towns of Saint-George and Lévis. In the face of this unprecedented disaster, it's important to increase our solidarity with the people of Lac-Mégantic; we must refuse to be indifferent.

quote:

The Increasingly Authoritarian Tendencies of the Canadian State

The fact that Canada has become a “petro-state” cannot be overlooked. An extractive regime oriented toward exploitation and the massive export of crude oil, tramples on the basic rules of democracy, public health, environmental protection and human rights. The massive Tar Sands project, one of the worst ecological catastrophes in the world today, relies on the active support of the Government of Canada. But this is not uniquely derived from the archaic ideology of Stephen Harper's Conservatives; that ideology merely expresses in full force the neoliberal logic associated with globalization and market deregulation.

The State is not simply caught in an economic system that requires it to encourage the flow of capital to the detriment of social and environmental standards; it makes possible this generalized exploitation through institutions, public policies and deregulation. The neoliberal state obeys the principles of market competition by acting as facilitator (supports private investment), distributor (creating business opportunities) and competitor (reorganizing public services). The numerous omnibus bills confirms that the Canadian neoliberal state represents a “material condensation of power relations” willing to sacrifice liberal democracy to ensure the hegemony of a class of owners on communities dispossessed of any real economic and political power....

http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/856.php

Geoff

epaulo13, I think you're dead on.  What happened in Lac Megantic was no accident; it was inevitable. The challenge is to get that message out in terms that the general public will buy into. The vocabulary we use and the framing of the argument is critical to getting your point across to Canadians at large.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Geoff wrote:

epaulo13, I think you're dead on.  What happened in Lac Megantic was no accident; it was inevitable. The challenge is to get that message out in terms that the general public will buy into. The vocabulary we use and the framing of the argument is critical to getting your point across to Canadians at large.

..thought it was a pretty good piece. it calls for solidarity with the peoples of lac megantic and i guess that means in any way we can from wherever we are. a wake up call for the peoples of que. and everywhere. recently que students are embroiled in a struggle for free education plus so much more. also recent was the collective decision to vote ndp in the last federal election. engagement on this scale is possible here..imho.

Sandy Dillon

Mr. Harper said. “I think the reality for anybody who looks at this business is that the absolute safest way to transport energy products is through pipelines, that is the safest way you can go.”

What this clown does not comment on IS THE FACT it was his government who gave the M.M.& A. railroad THE PERMISSION to operate one man crew trains!!!!!

The hypocrisy here is outragious to say the least.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

The Presumed Innocence of
Capitalism and Lac-Mégantic

quote:

Civilized Political Economy?

Each time people are shocked and horrified because they believe that they live under a regime of a mature and civilized political economy. They have been told that for-profit entrepreneurs care about their health and safety; they are taught that their elected governments will force entrepreneurs to put health and safety and environments ahead of profit-maximization. They want to believe all of this because their daily lives would be miserable if they thought that their food was unsafe, that most products they use are unchecked for dangers, that there are hundreds and thousands of untested toxic substances used in profit-making activities and released into their environments, that their physical recreational activities are largely unmonitored and unregulated, that their workplaces are high hazard zones. They are gulled into believing that everyone, profit-chasers and governments, cares about them because, at any one time, there is a high decibel vociferous debate, usually dominated by apparently respectable profit-seekers and their professional think-tanks, about how unnecessary government regulations impede the creation of wealth while, at the same time, they fail to protect society.

An impression is left that there is a great deal of supervision and monitoring. It looks to all the world that it is not the lack of regulation by governments, but its excesses, that impoverish and endanger us. Thus it is that, when a Lac-Mégantic occurs, everyone is surprised that it could happen at all: surely something has gone wrong with the otherwise satisfactory operations of profit-seekers and/or the well-established government oversight over profit-making?

But, the only thing that is special about a Lac-Mégantic is the sudden manner in which a huge amount of harm is inflicted. The infliction of harms is a daily event; but it is experienced as atomized, isolated events, unworthy of news coverage. We hardly notice the steady dripping of blood, the innumerable illnesses, serious and minor, daily deaths and incremental deterioration of our physical environments. We are systematically desensitized to the catastrophic dimensions of the injuries that regulated profit-seekers inflict. This is an amazing triumph for harm-inflicting profiteers....

http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/858.php

Unionist

It looks to me as if the [url=http://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/details/L04719]emergency order[/url] issued yesterday by the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration is more pertinent and strict than the [url=http://business.financialpost.com/2013/07/23/transport-canada-issues-eme... directive[/url] issued last week by Transport Canada, at least when it comes what (in my non-expert opinion) is one of the most important elements in the Lac-Mégantic disaster - the failure to apply sufficient handbrakes to secure the parked train against undesired movement. Transport Canada still defers to the unpublished rules of each railway company.

 

Sandy Dillon

The one glaring fact about the Lac Megantic train de-railment which nobody is talking about much is::

FACT::: Two years ago the federal Conservative government gave the M.M.&A railrod permission to operate ONE MAN TRAIN CREWS!!!

LIKE HELLO!!!

Sandy Dillon

The CEO of the M.M. & A. Railroad made this statemnt::"" One man train crews are safer!"

And if THAT one man has a heart attack while driving the train THEN WHAT?

Common sense is a rarity these days!!!

FACT:::   NO GLARING FACT::: The Conservative government of Canada gave this railroad permission to operate ONE MAN TRAIN CREWS!!!

Sandy Dillon

Unionist wrote:

It looks to me as if the [url=http://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/details/L04719]emergency order[/url] issued yesterday by the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration is more pertinent and strict than the [url=http://business.financialpost.com/2013/07/23/transport-canada-issues-eme... directive[/url] issued last week by Transport Canada, at least when it comes what (in my non-expert opinion) is one of the most important elements in the Lac-Mégantic disaster - the failure to apply sufficient handbrakes to secure the parked train against undesired movement. Transport Canada still defers to the unpublished rules of each railway company.

 

One man crew not an issue for you????

Sandy Dillon

Operating one man train crews TO SAVE money on employee salaries HAS comeback to bite this company in the rear.

Saved about 30,000 and are now on the hook for 8 million in damages!!!!!!!

Bankruptcy is being mentioned!!!! Greed does not always pay off.

PAY ME NOW OR PAY ME LATER EH???

Harper government allowed this company to operate one man train crews in Canada. Harper government ALL for looking after big business and putting the screws to the little guy. The Conservative finance minister said and I quote::"" Give big business tax breaks and they will hire more people!!!

REALLY???? It was the opposite in this situation Jimbo!!!

THE CLOWNS ARE RUINING OUR COUNTRY!!!

Unionist

Sandy Dillon wrote:

Unionist wrote:

It looks to me as if the [url=http://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/details/L04719]emergency order[/url] issued yesterday by the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration is more pertinent and strict than the [url=http://business.financialpost.com/2013/07/23/transport-canada-issues-eme... directive[/url] issued last week by Transport Canada, at least when it comes what (in my non-expert opinion) is one of the most important elements in the Lac-Mégantic disaster - the failure to apply sufficient handbrakes to secure the parked train against undesired movement. Transport Canada still defers to the unpublished rules of each railway company.

 

One man crew not an issue for you????

 

Yes, it's an issue for me - but not in this case, no, not really. Let me explain why.

I'm no expert, but someone needs to explain to me how two workers booking off and going to sleep in the hotel instead of just one - while still leaving the train unattended and (very likely) inadequately secured - would have saved 47 lives that night.

So, some problems I see:

1. Inadequate staffing, meaning that a second crew wasn't immediately available to relieve the first crew (irrespective of whether it's one person or two in the crew), leading to an unattended train.

2. Inadequate staffing (again), meaning too long shifts, leading to possible human error or shortcuts - e.g. failing to apply a sufficient number of handbrakes on the cars left parked. Yes, if you had a two-person crew that would be easier to do by sharing the burden, but nothing stops the locomotive engineer alone from doing what the rules require - except the extreme pressures of long shifts and speedups imposed by an employer who is trying to maximize profits.

3. Gross negligence (probably) by the railway in failing to ensure the air brakes were properly applied and sustained after the engine fire was controlled and the lead locomotive shut down. Number of engine crew members are irrelevant - they chose not to wake up the sleeping engineer, who would or should have known exactly how to sustain the air brakes. The track maintenance employee who was on site and gave the "ok" allegedly to the dispatcher and the firefighters probably had zero training on air brakes.

4. And, all the bigger issues surrounding where to park trains, how to transport dangerous commodities, etc.

To reduce this to an issue of crew size is to miss the causes of this event and ensure that events like these are repeated.

I remember in the 1980s, some railway unions were lobbying strenuously for the retention of the caboose (with its two-person, and later one-person crew) for safety reasons. The caboose is long gone, and no one has argued in many years that we need it back.

I believe that a two-person head-end crew is safer than one, and I'm glad Transport Canada has retreated partially on this point. I actually don't know what the U.S. rules are in this regard. Do you?

 

KenS

Just a couple comments U. I take your general point as there needs to be a wider look at staffing, not just one versus two person crews.

In the general flow of your look there is one very major point missing. The air brakes not being maintained is just the FIRST issue that came up immediately after. The biggest issue actually is whether there was proper and sufficient setting of manual brakes. Because in safety terms, the air brakes are not relied on. In real terms the air terms do most of the work. But they are not the 'safety brakes'.

So as far as the issue of why the train got rolling in the first place, and what that implies about the overall 'system', the biggest question is 'what happened or didnt with the manual brakes.' 

It would appear thet the engineer applied few or none. That remains to be seen, But it seems likely, and largely because of staffing. The Chairman of course chalks up to personal failure and not following the rules.

Non mainline trains have to be able to be parked. They will not exist if they had to have immediate relief of the crew as happens on main lines. It also SHOULD NOT be a problem. The main issue is another train coming down the line, and that doesnt happen on a short line.

Having sufficient manual brakes set is time consuming. This is where the one person crew comes in. All short lines have extra financial pressure. So looking at systems and safety you have to EXPECT that there will be built in pressures to make certain distances by the end of the shift. And just the fact that after a long shift, who wants to spend an hour or more setting brakes before you can leave.

Unionist

KenS wrote:

In the general flow of your look there is one very major point missing. The air brakes not being maintained is just the FIRST issue that came up immediately after. The biggest issue actually is whether there was proper and sufficient setting of manual brakes.

Um, Ken, please read my point #2 above:

Unionist wrote:
Inadequate staffing (again), meaning too long shifts, leading to possible human error or shortcuts - e.g. failing to apply a sufficient number of handbrakes on the cars left parked.

Also, read my post #80 above:

Unionist wrote:
... one of the most important elements in the Lac-Mégantic disaster - the failure to apply sufficient handbrakes to secure the parked train against undesired movement.

We're in violent agreement - except that in railway parlance, they're called "handbrakes".

lagatta

Transport critic Olivia Chow's op-ed on Lac Mégantic and rail safety:

http://www.oliviachow.ca/2013/07/toronto-star-olivias-op-ed-on-rail-safety/

quizzical

i think there's a number of main issues. my current favourite issue is; what was it exactly in those tanker cars? it doesn't appear to have been crude oil as the bill of lading states it was!!

there's been an ever increasing amount of crude oil tanker cars on the main CN rail here. on my way to the lake for the week-end there was over 80 tanker cars on a train i was waiting for. yet they said trains going through here never have more than 20 of the old cars too. pull aparts usually happen 'bout every other day and its down right scarey to think it could happen here!!!!!

Sandy Dillon

Unionist wrote:

Sandy Dillon wrote:

Unionist wrote:

It looks to me as if the [url=http://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/details/L04719]emergency order[/url] issued yesterday by the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration is more pertinent and strict than the [url=http://business.financialpost.com/2013/07/23/transport-canada-issues-eme... directive[/url] issued last week by Transport Canada, at least when it comes what (in my non-expert opinion) is one of the most important elements in the Lac-Mégantic disaster - the failure to apply sufficient handbrakes to secure the parked train against undesired movement. Transport Canada still defers to the unpublished rules of each railway company.

 

One man crew not an issue for you????

 

Yes, it's an issue for me - but not in this case, no, not really. Let me explain why.

I'm no expert, but someone needs to explain to me how two workers booking off and going to sleep in the hotel instead of just one - while still leaving the train unattended and (very likely) inadequately secured - would have saved 47 lives that night.

So, some problems I see:

1. Inadequate staffing, meaning that a second crew wasn't immediately available to relieve the first crew (irrespective of whether it's one person or two in the crew), leading to an unattended train.

2. Inadequate staffing (again), meaning too long shifts, leading to possible human error or shortcuts - e.g. failing to apply a sufficient number of handbrakes on the cars left parked. Yes, if you had a two-person crew that would be easier to do by sharing the burden, but nothing stops the locomotive engineer alone from doing what the rules require - except the extreme pressures of long shifts and speedups imposed by an employer who is trying to maximize profits.

3. Gross negligence (probably) by the railway in failing to ensure the air brakes were properly applied and sustained after the engine fire was controlled and the lead locomotive shut down. Number of engine crew members are irrelevant - they chose not to wake up the sleeping engineer, who would or should have known exactly how to sustain the air brakes. The track maintenance employee who was on site and gave the "ok" allegedly to the dispatcher and the firefighters probably had zero training on air brakes.

4. And, all the bigger issues surrounding where to park trains, how to transport dangerous commodities, etc.

To reduce this to an issue of crew size is to miss the causes of this event and ensure that events like these are repeated.

I remember in the 1980s, some railway unions were lobbying strenuously for the retention of the caboose (with its two-person, and later one-person crew) for safety reasons. The caboose is long gone, and no one has argued in many years that we need it back.

I believe that a two-person head-end crew is safer than one, and I'm glad Transport Canada has retreated partially on this point. I actually don't know what the U.S. rules are in this regard. Do you?

 

Try this on for size see if you then can find a reason TO BE GD CONCERNED.

That one engineer probably drove that train all the way from Dakota where it was loaded. HAVE YOU EVER HEARD THE GD WORD FATIGUE?

With 2 engineers they could have spelled each other and when it came time to stop for the night not being as fatigued as if one man had to do all the driving They could have both set the brakes properly before leaving the site.

LIKE FUCKING HELLO!!!

Unionist

Sandy Dillon wrote:

That one engineer probably drove that train all the way from Dakota where it was loaded. HAVE YOU EVER HEARD THE GD WORD FATIGUE?

I don't think so, Sandy.

Ignoring stops, crew changes, slow track speed areas, etc., it would take at least 29 continuous hours at the top speed of 100 km/hour to reach Lac-Mégantic from (say) Bismarck. The maximum allowed on-duty time for a locomotive engineer in road service is 12 hours, after which s/he must take at least an 8 hours continuous break.

That doesn't mean the engineer wasn't fatigued. Maybe he was. The treatment for fatigue is to find a bed and go to sleep. That's exactly what he did, and what every single train crew member does between shifts.

Quote:
With 2 engineers they could have spelled each other and when it came time to stop for the night not being as fatigued as if one man had to do all the driving.

No.

Two-person crews (which are the norm in 99.9% of cases) consist of an engineer and a conductor. In some cases, it may be two engineers. The engineer sits on the right of the cab and operates the train. The conductor sits on the left and calls out signals, manages various on-ground situations, etc. - but s/he DOES NOT DRIVE THE TRAIN. One driver. No sharing.

Quote:
They could have both set the brakes properly before leaving the site.

That point is correct. It's easier for two workers to climb up on individual cars and apply handbrakes than for just one. That task can be shared. But we still don't know how many handbrakes were actually set (Burkhardt said the engineer said 11, but Burkhardt doesn't believe him) or whether a "push-pull" test was performed.

In any event, whether one or two in the crew, enough handbrakes need to be set to prevent movement. Unscrupulous employers cut staff, speed up work performance, and make all kinds of demands that inevitably lead to errors. There are plenty of derailments and other incidents involving the standard two-person crew - far more (obviously) than with the one-person. That proves nothing in and of itself. Many measures need to be taken to make rail freight transport safer, for railway workers, the public, and the environment.

 

1weasel

My father, who is a retired locamotive engineer, raised a point with me.  If this was a regular rest stop then why wasn't there a train derailer in place on the track that would put the set off the track well before it reached town?

Unionist

1weasel wrote:

My father, who is a retired locamotive engineer, raised a point with me.  If this was a regular rest stop then why wasn't there a train derailer in place on the track that would put the set off the track well before it reached town?

Very good question. Sounds to me as if TC regulations don't require it.

[url=http://www.rcinet.ca/en/2013/07/15/railway-operations-and-rules-and-why-... operations and rules and why they failed at Lac Megantic[/url]

Quote:

In the case of the Lac Megantic situation, the train was left parked on the main line at Nantes. This is not against regulations.

Mr Benedict says, there is a siding at Nantes. To be safe, the train should have been parked there, with the derailer set at the end of siding as a final fail safe.  Mr Benedict feels this was not part of regular and special instructions because of costs.  It would take quite some time for the engineer to switch the line at both end and set the derailer, and set quite a few- sufficient-mechanical brakes, a time consuming process.  Then for the next engineer to remove the derailer, reswitch the lines and take off the brakes.

 

KenS

That would be consistent with the economics of short lines and how they are run. There isnt going to be another train, going either way. [For one thing, there aren't enough engineers for that to be areal possibility.]

Probably one of the many things TC has not updated its regulations to keep up with changes. [IE, if its not going onto a siding and using a derailer as fail safe- which admittedly is not economic when other trains will not come along... then waht is an equivalent failsafe that should be REQUIRED.

But you know, there's too many regulations already. So we'll let the companies take care of it.

So it would appear that in this case, there was no derailer and either none or insufficeint hand brakes [and obviously no push-pull test]. But thats cool. It will all work out.

KenS

The railroad picked up the train from CN in Montreal.

Since it isnt that far to Lac Megantic, presumably the engineer drove other trains that day, and stopped when his shift ended.

[Though probably it was scheduled that way, since it sounds like he very often ended his shift in the town.]

Very likely the relieving engineer habitually took those oil trains to the Maine/NB border, then took waiting empty cars back. Or drove it on the Irving owned SNB track to St. Johns and did his rest there.

Unionist

About 100 survivors of the disaster will have to wait until June 2014 to return to their homes - and that's assuming the decontamination work goes well. That's the news they received today, exactly one month after the derailment and explosion. And June 2014 is the most optimistic scenario.

Those whose homes were completely destroyed may have to wait longer.

[url=http://www.radio-canada.ca/regions/estrie/2013/08/06/009-retour-sinistre... in French.[/url]

 

Unionist

Burkhardt, as expected, acts to protect his dirty profits after his company killed 47 people:

[url=http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/rail-company-involved-in-me... company involved in Lac-Mégantic disaster files for bankruptcy[/url]

DaveW
Unionist

No.

Unionist

That was fast. The system moves quickly when it comes to protecting the rights of some crooked foreign capitalist:

[url=http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/montreal/Judge+grants+permission+int... grants MMA permission to go into bankruptcy protection [/url]

Quote:

A Superior Court judge has granted Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway permission to go into bankruptcy protection, but had harsh words for the company, whose train crash was responsible for 47 deaths and millions of dollars in damages in Lac-Mégantic.

Justice Martin Castonguay said the victims of the July 6 disaster would be included as creditors and said there would be no protection for the directors of the rail company.

"Their behaviour has been lamentable since the beginning of the situation," he said in Quebec Superior Court Thursday.

I'm sure the judge's harsh words will cause Ed Burkhardt some sleepless nights, during which he can count all the filthy lucre he managed to hide in this proceeding. Apparently, the total assets of MMA amount to $17.4 million!!!!!!!!! No one asked Ed Burkhardt what his total assets are, of course. That's not relevant.

 

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