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Press Release

TSB and NTSB call on Canadian and U.S. regulators to improve the safe transportation of crude oil by rail

Canada NewsWire

OTTAWA, Jan. 23, 2014 /CNW/ - In an unprecedented move, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) today issued strong recommendations to improve the safe transportation of crude oil by rail. The greater risk of shipping increasingly more crude oil by rail across North America demands coordinated solutions.

"In the course of our Lac-Mégantic investigation, we found three critical weaknesses in the North American rail system which must be urgently addressed," said Wendy Tadros, Chair of the TSB. "Today we are making three recommendations calling for tougher standards for Class 111 tank cars; route planning and analysis, and emergency response assistance plans."

The TSB recommendations are addressed to Transport Canada, and in the case of tank cars, also to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The Board's first recommendation calls for tougher standards for all Class 111 tank cars—not just new ones. In Lac-Mégantic, the Board found that even at lower speeds, the older unprotected Class 111 tank cars ruptured, releasing crude oil which fuelled the fire.

The second recommendation calls for strategic route-planning, and safer train operations for all trains carrying dangerous goods in Canada. The TSB wants railways to carefully choose the routes on which oil and other dangerous goods are to be carried, and to make sure train operations over those routes will be safe.

For the third recommendation, the TSB would like to see emergency response assistance plans (ERAPs) along routes where large volumes of liquid hydrocarbons are being shipped. The right resources must be in place to reduce the severity and impact of a spill or fire.

The amount of crude oil now being shipped by rail in North America is staggering. According to the rail industry, in Canada in 2009, there were only 500 carloads of crude oil shipped by rail; in 2013, there were 160,000 carloads. In the U.S. in 2009, there were 10,800 carloads; and in 2013, there were 400,000 carloads. And because North America's railways are interconnected, the NTSB's recommendations complement those issued by the TSB.

"If North American railways are to carry more and more of these flammable liquids through our communities, it must be done safely," added Tadros. "Change must come and it must come now."

The ongoing Lac-Mégantic investigation remains a top priority for the TSB.  It is committed to releasing urgent safety information when required.

Visit the active investigation page for more information about this investigation.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

Rail accident in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) continues to investigate the 6 July 2013 derailment and fire involving a freight train operated by Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.


1. Vulnerability of Class 111 tank cars to sustain damage

Considering the susceptibility of Class 111 general-service tank cars to product release during accidents, the large number of general-service Class 111 cars remaining in service, and the increased movements of large volumes of flammable liquids by rail through many Canadian and American communities, the Board believes that further action is required immediately.

Given the magnitude of the risks and given that tank car standards must be set for the North American rail industry, the Board recommends that:

The Department of Transport and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration require that all Class 111 tank cars used to transport flammable liquids meet enhanced protection standards that significantly reduce the risk of product loss when these cars are involved in accidents.

2. Route planning and analysis for trains carrying dangerous goods

The Lac-Mégantic derailment and other recent rail accidents demonstrate that, when accidents involving unit trains (or blocks of tank cars) transporting large volumes of flammable materials occur, there is significant risk for loss of life and damage to communities and the environment.

Route planning and analysis involves a comprehensive system-wide review of all operational changes, infrastructure modifications, traffic adjustments, and other changes affecting the safety of train movements. Additional safety benefits can be achieved when route planning and analysis is complemented by tighter operating measures. These measures can include a maximum allowable speed for trains carrying dangerous goods and a minimum level for class of track.

Safety assessments and periodic risk assessments of potential routes used for the transportation of dangerous goods will help ensure that the route selected is the one presenting the fewest overall safety risks. Therefore, the Board recommends that:

The Department of Transport set stringent criteria for the operation of trains carrying dangerous goods, and require railway companies to conduct route planning and analysis as well as perform periodic risk assessments to ensure that risk control measures work.

3. Requirements for emergency response assistance plans

An Emergency Response Assistance Plan (ERAP) is required by the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations for certain goods that pose a higher-than-average risk when transported in certain quantities. When there is an accident, the handling of these dangerous goods requires special expertise, resources, supplies and equipment.  Approved ERAPs would consistently ensure that first responders have access, in a timely manner, to the required resources and assistance in the event of an accident involving significant quantities of flammable liquid hydrocarbons.

Given the significant increase in the quantities of crude oil being transported by rail in Canada, and the potential for a large spill with the risks it would pose to the public and the environment, the Board recommends that, at a minimum:

The Department of Transport require emergency response assistance plans for the transportation of large volumes of liquid hydrocarbons.


Under the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act, federal ministers must formally respond to TSB recommendations and explain how they have addressed or will address the safety deficiencies. As of 23 January 2014, the Minister of Transport has 90 days to respond to recommendations put forth in investigation R13D0054.


SOURCE Transportation Safety Board of Canada