August 21, 2007
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Brothers and Sisters,
On Monday August 20th, myself and several unionized CP Rail employees
met with Leon Pendleton, the NDP federal candidate for the
Kootenay-Columbia riding in British Columbia.
Like most Canadians, Mr. Pendleton is concerned with the condition of
Canada's railways. It seems everyday there is a new story concerning
rail safety, train accidents, derailments and/or the integrity of the
railway infrastructure in this country. His office contacted me earlier
this month concerning a meeting to discuss this and other issues and I
Rail is the most economically and ecologically friendly method of mass
transportation. Everyone who works the track can see the increase in
traffic, the sheer volume of goods being shipped every day. We also see
the dangerous commodities and those on the front lines know more about
the conditions of the track and structures than anyone. The more trains
and tonnage that the track endures, the quicker the deterioration of its
integrity. The maintenance (including preventative) must be increased
and improved to meet this challenge.
The estimated cost of derailments should not have to be figured into
budgets, but the actual cost of preventing them must be.
Mr. Pendleton echoed this concern when he said,
" There needs to be a National strategy of infrastructure repair,
replacement and expansion to ward off an ever increasing deterioration
throughout the country. And the railway system must be a number one
When you read reports of the highway bridge that tragically collapsed in
Minneapolis, you have to wonder about the scheduled inspection and
maintenance of the thousands of railway bridges. Following the collapse,
not only highway but railway bridge safety has been focused on. The
Massachusetts Transportation Authority has announced that they have
reduced the speed on a number of railway bridges carrying commuter
trains. MBTA general manager Daniel Grabauskas said.
" MBTA general manager Daniel Grabauskas said. "I don't want us to take
any chances relative to the safety of our customers, and if that means
that we need to slow down over some bridges until we get a full answer
on . . . what caused the collapse, then we're going to do that."
The same safety related procedures have been reported on railways in New
York, Illinois Texas and a number of other states, though to date I have
not seen anything publicly announced in Canada.
Shayne Brighton, a 27 year B&S employee for CPRail, issued his concerns
to Mr. Pendleton and I about a few of the bridges on the Revelstoke
division. With over 85 bridges, he felt that the inspections that were
being done may not be sufficient or thorough, considering the manpower
and the actual time spent on inspections. He also told us that the
Columbia river Bridge, entering Revelstoke has had planned repairs
deferred again and again, over a number of years and though he does not
have access to the inspection reports, is getting concerned about its
When you consider that the last three deaths within the Maintenance of
Way department at CPRail, all occurred on the BC interior and when you
also consider that last February a train derailment caused a spill of
hydrochloric acid and another derailment in April resulted in the death
of engineer Lonnie Plasko, both on the BC Interior division, there is a
need for a concern over safety and this management's approach to it.
There is a need for federal MP's who will address these concerns in this
and every other riding.
It is the TCRC MWED's belief that what we need is an honest,
straightforward approach to safety. We need to approach safety and the
task of building and maintaining a safe railway system, as the utmost
priority and not to weigh the cost against the profits that 'shortcuts'
and 'risks' may allow.
We need all stakeholders to be actively involved and actually listened
to. No company should self manage its safety. They should manage safety
in co-ordination with the Unions, the employees, the public and the
Government. And these companies must be held accountable for
There must be a much higher cost to them for ignoring safety than for
them to support it. After all, look at the cost that all of us have to
It was a pleasure and an honour to have the current discussions with Mr.
Pendleton and to be able to count him with the growing number of
politicians and legislators who are listening to our concerns and are
willing to take an active role in making this country's transportation
systems, safe and secure again.
For more information concerning Mr. Pendleton's position on these and
other issues, he invites you to contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember, we are the power within this country. We are its citizens and
we have a voice.
Stay safe, stay strong, stay united.