The TSBC report stems from an incident that occurred in the winter of 2015 near the community of Gogama, Ontario (approximately 600 kilometres [370 miles] north of Toronto). Gogama has approximately 450 residents.
In the incident, a 100-car Canadian National freight train carrying bitumen derailed. A total of 29 tank cars derailed. Of that number, 19 of the cars broke open and 1.7 million litres (450 gallons) of bitumen spilled out. The bitumen ignited and burned for five days.
Coincidently, a second incident near Gogama occurred two weeks after the second one. In the second incident, a 94-car CN train hauling oil derailed and exploded going over a bridge near the community. The bridge was destroyed and the 39 cars that left the tracks broke open and spilled oil into the river. An accident report has yet to be released by the TSBC on the second incident.
Fortunately, there were no injuries as a result of either accident. The remote location of the incidents and the extreme cold at the time (-31 deg Celsius [-24o F]) resulted in very little media attention of the events. The two incidents occurred less than two years after the Lac-Mégantic disaster that killed 47 people.
The report lists 14 causes to contributing factors to the first incident. One of the causes was the extreme cold that made the tracks more susceptible to brittle failure. It also noted that lack of experience and training as contributing factors. A third factor that lead to the incidents was the absence of tank-car thermal protection which likely increased the severity of the product release and fueled the fire. Other factors listed include the speed at which the trains were travelling, and the weight of the cars.
The TSBC found that defects on the track went unrepaired because of shortfalls in training and supervisory support. Transport Canada had not inspected that stretch of track in the two years before the derailments.
“This accident occurred on an isolated stretch of rail in northern Ontario and thankfully no one was injured,” TSB chair Kathy Fox told a news conference when her report was issued. “But so long as the same risks exist — track-maintenance issues, railway personnel training, train speed and tank cars that aren’t sufficiently robust — the consequences of the next rail accident may not only be environmental.”
Canada’s Transport Minister Marc Garneau promised approximately a year ago that rail safety would be his No. 1 priority.