Community Forum on Rail Safety | November 28, 2014
Since 2007, reliance on rail transportation in Canada has steadily increased. Industry officials predict that this trend will continue well into the next decade – a reality that comes with troubling implications. Canada’s railway network remains as important to our economy today as it was a century ago. Therefore, it is vital that we have proper regulations to protect both the strength of our railroads and the safety of our citizens.
Join us for a community discussion on this important issue, co-hosted by Chrystia Freeland, M.P. (Toronto Centre), Hon. Carolyn Bennett, M.P. (St. Paul’s) and community rail safety advocates.
When: Friday, November 28 2014
Time: 7:00 – 9:00pm
Where: Church of the Messiah, 240 Avenue Road, Toronto, ON (Corner of Avenue and Dupont)
Meeting Brief: On Friday November 28th, MPs Adam Vaughan (Trinity-Spadina), Carolyn Bennett (St. Paul’s) and Chrystia Freeland (Toronto Centre) hosted a Community Forum on Rail Safety at the Church of the Messiah. Their ridings abut the CP freight rail corridor (North Toronto Subdivision) that runs along Dupont Street from the West Toronto Diamond near Dupont and Dundas Street West to the Leaside Yards near Millwood and Laird in the east. Despite the fact that the meeting was on a friday evening, More that 200 people attended.
There were two short presentations, one by Peter Miasek of Transport Action Ontario, followed by a Q&A.
Those asking questions largely stayed on the topic of safety as it relates to the transport of dangerous goods by rail (including Bakken crude from North Dakota) through a densely populated urban area.
There was broad recognition of the merits of rail as a means of transporting goods but also that the nature of the goods being transported and the frequency of trains had changed dramatically.
While the optimal solution of relocating the corridor (reference was made to the Ottawa Valley Railway corridor from Thunder Bay to Smiths Fall that CP has abandoned) was raised, discussion focused on enhancements to safety that could be implemented in the immediate to near term. These included properly classification of the cargo (there are issues with the measurement of the vapour pressure of Bakken crude and hence its explosiveness), enhanced survivability standards for tank cars carrying flammables, train speeds, track and equipment monitoring and maintenance (eg hot box detectors and wheel impact load detectors), automatic train controls, crew training, level crossings and corridor fencing and engagement of first responders, to name a few.
The reaction of the MPs was that rail safety in general, and in the North Toronto Subdivision in particular, is a real issue of national significance. The MPs indicated that the matter would be reported back to caucus, and to their transportation critic, David McGuinty, as such. Rail safety appears to have legs as a federal election issue.
While there were expressions of interest in building on the momentum of the meeting , no concrete next steps emerged.
Currently coalition building of interested stakeholders and residents’ associations is underway. As the matter is of national and international interest, outreach to stakeholders across Canada and the US would seem to be appropriate. For example rail safety was discussed at the August 2014 AGM of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has a National Rail Safety Working Group whose members include Mayor Collette Roy-Laroche of the Town of Lac Megantic.
The issue resonates as far away as California
The issue is on the radar the Minister of Transportation and her US counterpart (http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=915899), Transport Canada and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.
Councilors Josh Matlow and Kristin Wong-Tam have convened rail safety meetings earlier in 2014. Both Mayors John Tory and Bonnie Crombie are advocating for the end of the transport of dangerous goods through their respective cities ( http://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2014/12/04/toronto_mayor_john_tory_wants_more_transparency_from_rail_companies.html).
Recall that the CP freight line runs through Mississauga. In november 1979 Mississauga was the site of a derailment, explosion and fire that resulted in the largest peacetime evacuation in North America prior to New Orleans in 2005. The Mississauga derailment lead to the mandatory installation of hot box detectors. The Lac Megantic tragedy has similarly brought the issue of rail safety back to the fore.
The objective here would be to get out front of the issue with a proactive program of practical, implementable solutions to enhance the safety of the transport of dangerous goods rather that reacting to disasters after the fact.
From Open Parliament.ca Debate January 27th, 2015
The House resumed from November 5, 2014, consideration of the motion that Bill Railway Safety Act C-627, An Act to amend the Railway Safety Act (safety of persons and property), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Open Parliament: http://openparliament.ca/debates/2015/1/27/steven-fletcher-1/
February 11th, 2015
The first rail safety meeting – 20 people, from RA ‘s from the Junction to Don Mills. The Rathnally group took the lead running the meeting. We heard from Saferail, from the Junction and it seems we will use there website as a platform. The message is not anti rail, but safe rail. We discussed policy priorities, based on a list the group had created (from previous email exchanges). There was some debate about this, amongst the lay people and those with more technical expertise. There was also discussion whether to focus on Toronto or to reach out to other rail communities across Canada. The consensus was to concentrate on Toronto and grow from there.
Then there was a presentation by a PR firm who ran the Mega quarry campaign – how to message, how to organize etc. there was also discussion about funding and that each group would ask for $2500 from their people.
Action Item: The Rathnally group is to put together a summary showing what would be done for the funding, so we have a basis for the financial request. The fact that some groups might find it easier to raise that amount was raised
There was then talk of organizing a town hall – to raise awareness, get media attention and bring the issue back into the public eye, before the election. The timing of this is unclear, but spring was discussed. The ARA seems to be the lead on this.
- Several committees were suggested
- Policy – to decide on what the specific aims of the group would be – ie/ no trains, slower trains, use of technology to monitor trains, regulation, scare mongering (not popular) etc.
- Strategy, including the town hall work
There was a decision to meet again in a month.
NOTE: CN rail workers were just legislated back to work and there was another accident the weekend of February 14/15, 2015
From The Globe and Mail: CN train carrying crude oil derails, catches fire in Northern Ontario
From Safe Rail February 2015
We are Patricia Lai and Helen Vassilakos, co-founders of Safe Rail Communities, a community-based initiative on rail safety that is based out of the Junction.
Since March 2014, we have been working hard to hold our government to account on the transportation by rail of dangerous goods, particularly volatile Bakken crude.
On Friday, February 20th, Minister Raitt made an important announcement regarding new legislation related to rail safety.
While this is a step in the right direction, Safe Rail Communities has a few questions about the numbers…
This is a national non-partisan issue that deserves a national voice, especially from those of us who live in close proximity to rail lines and every day assume a senseless risk.
Find out more and join the conversation at www.saferail.ca
We are happy to speak to any group of concerned residents. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org
To be a part of the SVRA Rail Safety Committee please contact the SVRA: email@example.com