Trains should never have rolled on unsafe
parts of track
Published: January 8, 2008
OTTAWA - Trains in northern Manitoba should never have rolled along
sections of track deemed "impassable" by federal transport standards,
says a newly released report.
Rail service should have stopped until 16 sections of the track
classified as unsafe by Transport Canada were repaired, says a report by
a Mississauga, Ont.-based engineering firm.
"Trains should not have been operated over these defects until they were
corrected to within these standards," the report says.
"Trains should have been stopped immediately over the impassable defects
UMA Engineering Ltd. sent Via Rail the report, which The Canadian Press
obtained under the Access to Information Act, last September after it
identified track sections that sloped at a degree beyond what Transport
Canada considers safe.
Via does not own the remote 310-kilometre section of track in Manitoba,
known as the Sherridon subdivision, which runs between Sherritt Junction
and Lynn Lake.
Manitoba's Keewatin Railway Corp. owns that part of the rail line in the
northern part of the province between The Pas and Pukatawagan.
However, Via spokesman Malcolm Andrews said the Crown corporation
received the report because it leases several coaches to Keewatin.
"We're concerned with all of our equipment, and where it's operating,
and how it's operating, and the condition that it's operating over," he
Keewatin Railway Corp. general manager Tom McCahill said Tuesday the
company leases three coaches and one baggage car from Via.
Each problem area was repaired before the report was sent to Via last
September, he said, adding the 16 impassable sections of track ranged
from only a few inches to several metres.
"No railroad operates over track that they know is in this condition,"
"Were we operating over it before the car (used to measure the track
found the defects)? I guess so, because we didn't know it was there."
Tracks are typically inspected once a year, usually after the spring
thaw, McCahill said, so the 16 sections singled out in the report would
have become a problem sometime between the annual checks.
Meanwhile, trains had to slow to a crawl to make it across other trouble
spots on the rails. The engineering firm's report identified more than
200 sections of track where the firm recommended so-called "slow
orders," or speed limits, for trains to cross safely.
Of those, the report recommended 110 sections of the track that trains
could only safely cross at 10 miles an hour. It also recommended nearly
a hundred more slow orders of varying speeds for other parts of the
However, the report also noted two months had passed between the testing
and the date the engineering firm delivered the report to Via, so "the
track may have deteriorated since then."
The author of the firm's report declined to comment and referred all
calls to Via. The Via engineer who received the report did not return
calls for comment on Tuesday.
Crumbling infrastructure has plagued the rail industry in recent years.
A separate Via report released last year showed one out of every four of
the Crown corporation's trains were late in 2007.
The delays aren't always Via's fault, since the agency largely operates
on track owned by other railways, such as CN Rail, and its passenger
trains must sometimes stand down to let freight trains pass.
Freight-train derailments, track-improvement work and speed restrictions
along tracks that are prone to buckling in summer heat have all caused
disruptions in the schedule.