FW: [Tr2000] Media Editorial CN safety ethics
>From: "railscanada" <milne@...>
>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
>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