Canadian Safety Board Issues Recommendations Following CN River Tunnel Derailment

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has issued four safety advisory letters in connection with its investigation of a June 28, 2019, derailment of a Canadian National train in the St. Clair River tunnel connecting Sarnia, Ontario, and Port Huron, Michigan.

The derailment resulted in 46 cars of the 140 cars in the train leaving the tracks.

The TSB said first car to derail appeared to be the 53rd car, a bathtub gondola, in which the A-end appears to have collapsed.

An analysis by the TSB and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board determined the initial point of derailment occurred in Canada.

Also derailing was a tank car loaded with sulphuric acid that saw most of its load of 12,000 gallons spilled in the tunnel.

TSB has asked Transport Canada to ensure that railroads have instructions in their emergency procedures on how to inspect a train carrying hazardous materials after a derailment in a tunnel. It noted that after the June 28 derailment, the the conductor left the locomotive to inspect the train following in accordance with CN rules.

However, he could not be reached by radio by other crew members to warn him that the tunnel’s toxic gas alarm had activated. The conductor was not injured.

TSB also asked Transport Canada and the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration of potentially defective bathtub gondolas and requested that those cars— particularly those used in scrap metal service —be inspected and repaired as needed.

This particularly pertains to bathtub gondolas built by Berwick Forge. There are an estimated 2,500 such cars in operation in North America.

Finally, the TSB said Transport Canada should ensure that all railroads have adequate practices in place to effectively manage train operating personnel.

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