OHS Canada Magazine

Track failure led to train derailment in northern B.C.: safety board


RICHMOND, B.C. — The Transportation Safety Board says a track failure contributed to the derailment of a freight train in northern British Columbia in January.

No one was hurt when 34 cars carrying wood pellets on the Canadian National Railway Co. train left the tracks between the communities of Smithers and Terrace.

The board’s report on the incident says video and audio evidence from the train strongly suggests a sudden track failure occurred.

The report says testing on the same stretch of tracks in July and September 2019 showed the number of “deviations” in the width between the tracks had increased along that section.

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The agency says the weight and number of railcars travelling on the route sped up the deterioration of the track before the derailment.

CN Rail says in a statement it is reviewing the board’s report but has already increased and enhanced its automated track inspection program to detect and improve track conditions.

“We remain committed to working with regulators to embed the use of technology to improve inspections, which reduces, and ultimately prevents incidents like this derailment from occurring.”

The company says safety is a core value at CN and in 2020, it has invested over $445 million in B.C. to expand and strengthen its network.

CN says it has replaced more than 25,000 metres of rail and changed over 32,500 rail ties, strengthening its infrastructure.

The safety board noted in its report that the incident was the third such derailment in the area after 27 coal cars derailed in January 2018 and 52 empty cars derailed in December 2017.