Lytton Mayor Chris O’Connor is steaming mad. Just hours after a Canadian National Railway delegation addressed the town about improving safety standards Aug. 3 another CN train derailed near Lytton. It was the second derailment in less than a week near the Fraser Canyon town.
“It flies in the face of what they told us about improving safety records,” O’Connor said when contacted at home. CN spokespersons had a safety meeting in Lytton Aug. 3 to address the town’s concerns.
“They said they’re practising to a high standard yet the proof is in the pudding and when you start seeing this number of derailments so close to our community it means you have to ask, so what’s wrong?”
Nine CN rail cars carrying grain went off the tracks at 6:45 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 4. The train was at a track interchange when the accident occurred. Dan Holbrook of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said the train was switching from one track to another rarely used track avoiding a track blocked because of a Canadian Pacific derailment earlier that same week.
“Under the weight of heavy grain the rails split and the cars derailed,” Holbrook said, adding that he has been unable to yet determine why, especially since the secondary track had been undergoing regular inspections.
Earlier that week 20 Canadian Pacific rail cars in a 124-car westbound coal train derailed north of Lytton, sending 12 cars down a steep embankment into the river. No one was injured in either of the two derailments.
However, in June two CN employees were killed in a fiery accident when a locomotive and rail car went off the tracks and plunged down a mountainside north of Lytton near Lillooet. TSB suspects the locomotive’s air brakes failed and subsequently ordered CN to only run trains equipped with a secondary braking system. TSB is looking into causes of the Aug. 4 grain train derailment.
“In TSB’s normal fashion we will do a thorough investigation and if there are safety deficiencies that come to light we will issue a communication to the individuals to eliminate any risks we might identify,” Holbrook, manager of western operations, said.
Lytton’s mayor says residents are concerned about the number of accidents.
“If it was a toxic substance and it got into the river it certainly would play havoc with fisheries and other things,” O’Connor said.
CN has increased rail inspections, added new cars to test track geometry, installed premium brake shoes on cars and done a complete emergency response plan review, but derailments in B.C. continue.
“We are trying to get them to happen less frequently,” said CN spokesperson Jim Feeny, “and when they do happen we want to make them less severe but there is work to do to get there.”