Train derailment workload study off the
Published: February 11, 2008
Rail traffic controller workload cited
WHITBY -- Union officials and local councillors are frustrated a
planned workload study of rail traffic controllers has been shelved.
The study was to come out of a Transportation Safety Board of Canada
report on the catastrophic January 2004 Whitby derailment that left two
women dead when train cars fell from the Garden Street overpass on top
of their vehicle. Kathleen Kellachan, of Whitby, and her niece,
Christine Harrington, of Keswick, were killed instantly.
released in 2006, outlined a series of events it said resulted in the
derailment. Included as a possible cause of the derailment was a heavy
workload for rail traffic controllers across the Belleville subdivision
at the time leading up to the event.
Transport Canada is not going to
commission a workload study because it would be "redundant" when it is
already aware workloads are high, said Transport Canada spokeswoman Tina
Bouchard. Transport Canada representatives met with representatives from
the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference on Jan. 11 and were told about high
workloads experienced by rail traffic controllers, Ms. Bouchard said.
"We are developing protocols for addressing peak periods of workload
and the resulting stress to operators," she said.
The new protocols,
which would include new training and qualification rules, are being
developed as a result of the agency's knowledge of the high workloads,
But Jim Ruddick, Teamsters Canada Rail Conference chairman, said the
study is still necessary.
"They (Transportation Safety Board) thought
it was important at the time to conduct the study and for 10 months to
follow," Mr. Ruddick said. "Why, all of sudden, is it no longer a
The Teamsters group represents about 500 rail traffic controllers
with Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian National and Ottawa Valley
"Our organization has concerns about the (rail traffic controller)
workload," he said.
Mr. Ruddick wrote a letter expressing his
organization's concern about the cancelled study to Town Council and
Whitby-Oshawa MP Jim Flaherty's office. When the letter was received as
information by council on Jan. 28, Councillor Don Mitchell raised a
motion to endorse the letter and send it to the appropriate federal
Councillor Gerry Emm said a stronger step was needed.
certainly important that we take every effort to ensure they follow
through," he said.
Council voted for staff to prepare a follow-up
report on the issue.
Mr. Ruddick said he does not believe having a
third party perform a study about workload conditions would be
redundant. Rail traffic controllers' workloads vary, from times when
everything is working properly to situations where there are huge
snowstorms or other issues, he said.
"A rail traffic controller's
workload is extremely heavy at the best of times," Mr. Ruddick said.
"There is value in a study to get to the root cause of the workload."
TSB # R04/2006
THE TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD OF CANADA RELEASES A SAFETY
RECOMMENDATION TO IMPROVE RAIL TRAFFIC CONTROL OPERATIONS
(Gatineau, Quebec, May 9, 2006) - The Transportation Safety Board of
Canada (TSB) today released its final report (R04T0008) into the January
14, 2004 derailment of Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) train 239-13. The
derailment occurred just east of the Garden Street overpass in Whitby,
Ontario. Rail car platforms and containers fell onto the roadway below,
striking a southbound vehicle and fatally injuring the two occupants.
Several safety actions have been taken as a result of the TSB
investigation. Transport Canada issued an order changing the procedures
on how CPR operates when an unidentified track occupancy (UTO) occurs.
The TSB issued two safety communications: the first concerning
inspection and reporting of damaged or broken rail, and the second
concerning shattered rim defects in wheels manufactured by ABC Rail
(formerly Abex Southern Corporation). CPR has instituted procedures to
address both issues. It has also instituted rail traffic control
software enhancements to visually alert the rail traffic controller (RTC)
when a second UTO occurs behind a train, and has improved documentation
procedures to better identify track anomalies.
During its investigation into this fatal accident, the TSB noted that
insufficient measures were in place to address very high workload
situations. In its report, the Board has recommended that Transport
Canada work with the Railway Association of Canada to implement rail
traffic control protocols and training that will recognize periods of
high workload and make safety paramount.
A damaged wheel on the front truck of the 39th car behind the
locomotives of the westbound train fractured the south rail at Mile
178.20 of the Belleville Subdivision, leading to the derailment of the
The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline,
railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the
advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the
Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.
The public report,
photos are also available on this site.