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PendletonRailway Safety Concerns 
Published: 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 readily agreed.

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 priority."

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 condition.

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 non-compliance.

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 pay.

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:

Remember, we are the power within this country. We are its citizens and we have a voice.

Stay safe, stay strong, stay united.

Bill Brehl

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