No faults reported
By James Jackson
Published Nov. 27, 2013
The railway company in charge of monitoring and repairing the Waterloo spur line won’t reveal the number of faults its engineers have discovered in the past year since a train derailment last October.
In an email to the Chronicle last week, Canadian National Railway spokesperson Lindsay Fedchyshyn said no faults were detected during the most recent inspection last week, but wouldn’t say how many had been found prior to that inspection.
“All necessary defaults have been addressed and necessary maintenance has been done,” said Fedchyshyn.
“The track conforms to all regulatory standards and is in safe operating condition.”
CN Rail says it inspects the track twice per month and a specialized ultrasonic fail flaw test is also administered once per year, including along the Waterloo spur line.
At the time when the cars jumped the tracks, it was the 20th minor derailment in the past five years on the roughly 300-kilometre track operated by the Goderich-Exeter Railway.
Information on 2013 incidents have not yet been posted on the Transportation Safety Board website.
The derailment was caused by a faulty section of track and occurred around 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 11, 2012, on a section of track behind Waterloo City Hall.
At a neighbourhood meeting earlier this month in the uptown area, several residents voiced concerned about the condition of the track.
“I’d like to see the train gone, and turn (the tracks) into a nice path,” said Russ Hunter in an interview last week. He lives on John Street East, just a few doors down from the tracks, and saw the train off the tracks the night of the derailment.
He worries about the chemicals the train carries through the heart of the city.
The train was carrying dangerous goods bound for Elmira the night it left the tracks. Nothing spilled and CN Rail had workers on the scene the next day to repair the track.
Both CN, which maintains the line, and GEXR neglected to inform the region and the city of the derailment when it occurred.
Last March, the City of Waterloo obtained a complete list of what hazardous materials are moved through the core. Since early May, the Chronicle has been requesting a list of materials being transported through the city core by freight train, only to be denied by GEXR and the city’s fire chief, Lyle Quan.
A formal Freedom of Information request made to the city was also denied on July 4 and the Chronicle is appealing that decision.
An investigation by the Chronicle revealed sodium hydroxide and liquid hydrocarbons are just some of the dangerous goods moved by rail through Waterloo.
Following the derailment and explosion of a train carrying crude oil through the small Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic, which killed 47 people on July 6, train safety has become a topic of national debate.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities formed a national rail safety working group urging the federal government to review safety requirements and arguing municipalities should be better informed about what’s moved through their cities and towns.
Last week, the federal government announced it will require all railways in Canada to tell municipalities what dangerous goods are being transported. Effective immediately, Class I railways must provide details every three months. Class II and Class III railways — including GEXR —must share the information once a year.
Classes are determined by annual revenue and as of 2011, seven Class I railroads were operating in Canada.
Conditions similar to those imposed on the City of Waterloo to keep such information confidential will be used nationally, said CN Rail spokesperson Mark Hallman last week. “We do not make it available publicly for reasons of public security,” he said.
A representative from GEXR had previously told the Chronicle the list of materials isn’t made public due to terrorism worries.
Hunter thinks the information should be made public.
“I think the reasons (they give) of terrorism are an excuse,” he said. “I think we definitely have the right to know.”