New rail-car standards coming too slow, agency says – by Kim Mackrael (Globe and Mail – March 18, 2015)

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OTTAWA — Canada’s transportation watchdog is questioning a federal proposal to phase in tougher tank-car standards over the next 10 years, saying a recent spate of fiery derailments is evidence that faster action will be needed.

The Transportation Safety Board made the comments in a progress report on its investigation into a crude-oil train accident earlier this month in Northern Ontario. The TSB is investigating the derailment of a Canadian National train near Gogama, Ont., on March 7, which spilled crude oil into a nearby river and sparked a massive fire that burned for more than three days.

While investigators did not come to a conclusion on what caused the accident, they said they found a section of broken rail that had been installed two days before the accident. The rail was sent to a laboratory in Ottawa for further analysis, the report said.

All of the tank cars involved in the accident were built after 2011 and complied with the current CPC-1232 standard, the TSB report said. That means they had steel cladding at the front and protection over the valves – added safeguards that were not present on the earlier-model tank cars involved in the Lac-Mégantic disaster two years ago.

Despite the upgrades, there have been growing concerns about the CPC-1232 standard in recent months, after the tank cars were involved in several fiery derailments in both Canada and the United States, including the March 7 accident.

Last week, Transport Canada unveiled a long-awaited proposal for a newer, “next generation” standard, which includes thicker steel, thermal protection and full shields. Under the terms of the proposal, the new standards would be required for all crude oil and other flammable liquid shipments by 2025.

TSB chair Kathy Fox said the new tank-car proposal is a good step forward because it addresses many of the key features her agency has been asking for. But the proposed government timeline won’t address the problem of explosive derailments soon enough, she said.

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