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FW: [Tr2000] Media Editorial CN safety ethics

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  • Andrew Dawson
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 24, 2005
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      >From: "railscanada" <milne@...>
      >Reply-To: Tr2000@yahoogroups.com
      >To: Tr2000@yahoogroups.com
      >Subject: [Tr2000] Media Editorial CN safety ethics
      >Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 20:55:54 -0000
      >Should people in McBride and other towns be concerned about the
      >safety of the rail cars that snake through their communities and
      >roll by their lakes, rivers, farms?
      >On August 3, a CN Rail train went off the tracks near Wabamun,
      >Alberta, spilling over 700,000 litres of heavy fuel oil and leaching
      >hundreds of thousands of litres of thick, black oil into Lake
      >Wabamun, killing fish, wildlife and vegetation.
      >Two days later, another CN train derailed and sent a ruptured boxcar
      >with 41,000 litres of highly corrosive sodium hydroxide into the
      >Cheakamus River north of Vancouver, causing the river to turn from
      >deep green to brown, instantly killing thousands of fish.
      >Isolated incidents? Hardly. In January of this year, a CN train
      >carrying hazardous materials derailed in Winnipeg causing a
      >temporary evacuation of nearby residents. And there have been other
      >serious derailments at CN operations in both Canada and the U.S.
      >Closer to home, it was only two years ago that a CN freight engineer
      >and conductor were killed during a derailment near McBride caused by
      >a trestle fire.
      >For some time now, rail unions have been warning that, after being
      >privatized in the early 1990s, CN has engaged in massive downsizing.
      >This has resulted in a deteriorating safety record at the railway.
      >CN dismisses the safety concerns raised by the unions and
      >environmentalists, by claiming that CN is the safest railway in
      >North America.
      >So, arguments aside, is there cause for concern in communities such
      >as McBride and Prince George?
      >A huge amount of hazardous material does pass over the CN lines in
      >BC. Rail cars bulging with sulphur, caustic soda, acids, chlorine
      >and a host of other toxic chemicals, routinely make their way
      >through communities. If there was a derailment, any one of these
      >chemicals could cause massive damage to the fish and wildlife
      >habitat of the rivers, devastate water treatment and recreational
      >facilities, and threaten communities.
      >Given the above, it was not reassuring for Northerners to hear two
      >years ago CN challenging the Transportation Safety Board's
      >conclusions that CN's safety and inspection practices contributed to
      >the McBride trestle fire. This suggested that CN had learned nothing
      >from the tragedy.
      >And it is not reassuring today to see how CN is reacting to the Lake
      >Wabamun and Cheakamus derailments. In Wabamun, the huge spill has
      >been a disaster for the community. After the spill happened,
      >residents quickly became concerned that CN was not aggressively
      >taking measures to contain it. But worse was yet to come. The
      >Alberta Environment Ministry was told by CN that the spill only
      >involved fuel oil. As a result, the Ministry issued statements
      >indicating that residents could continue to drink and wash with the
      >lake water. But further investigation showed that a boxcar with
      >90,000 litres of highly toxic pole treating oil had also ruptured
      >and leaked into the lake. CN appears to have sat on this information
      >for a number of days.
      >Regarding the BC spill, residents and vacationers around the fast-
      >moving Cheakamus River complained that they didn't receive any
      >information until 12 hours after it had taken place.
      >The result of all this has been a public relations disaster for CN,
      >and has raised concern in many communities about CN's commitment to
      >public safety. The question arises: Can a large private monopoly,
      >with ownership based in the U.S., be trusted to look after such a
      >vital public interest as the main railway system in North Western
      >CN, a Crown corporation, was sold off by the federal government in
      >the 1990s to largely American interests. Since then, it has evolved
      >into a continental rail giant that now includes BC Rail.
      >Transportation and utility companies can be especially powerful
      >monopolies because often they are "the only game in town", holding
      >to ransom other sectors of industry. Politically, they have enormous
      >clout. Comparing a small business to a monopoly such as CN is like
      >comparing a garter snake to an anaconda.
      >When key sectors of the economy like rail are controlled by giant
      >private monopolies, public safety risks being trumped by private
      >How do we sleep beside an anaconda? With great care. Whatever we do,
      >we should not close our eyes.
      >Robson Valley Times 2005/08/23
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