Rails: Sherbrooke calls for action by Transport Canada

The 253 anomalies found in 2018 on the Lac-Mégantic-Farnham railway have been corrected, Transport Canada said in a presentation to Sherbrooke City Council that had not been announced. However, the department did not verify each of the corrections but rather proceeded randomly.
TheCity of Sherbrooke had invited the Department’s representatives to have some answers when they were voting on a resolution calling for Transport Canada’s swift action on regional railways.

The elected officials finally opted for a resolution asking Transport Canada to send them railway inspection reports, to confirm the conformity of the repairs made and to tighten the safety rules in urban areas.

They also ask that the CMQ provide the list of materials that transit through the territory. Sherbrooke has not gone as far as Nantes, which calls for the shutdown of the transportation of dangerous goods until the railway is secured.

“Citizens deplore the state of the rails and I share their concerns. Several things seem defective. Your presence is a proof of transparency to better understand the dangers and the solutions put in place “Stéphane Simoneau, the emergency measures coordinator, said at the outset.

Chair Nicole Bergeron promptly called on Transport Canada’s Director General of Rail Safety Brigitte Diogo to ask for specific answers.

“What we want to know is why you can not order the company [Central and Maine Railways] to cease operations given the state of the rails,” Bergeron asked.

Stéphane Simoneau gave the example of nails he managed to remove manually from the railway.

“If it was Transport Canada’s conclusion that the operations were dangerous, we would not hesitate to take action. But this is not the conclusion of the experts we have in place. They evaluate a whole series of parameters. Our inspections do not support an action that would ban the transport of dangerous goods, “said Brigitte Diogo.

Engineer Frédéric Fortin indicated that the crampons mentioned by Mr. Simoneau must be in sufficient quantity over a distance of 39 feet to avoid a dangerous separation of the rails. The lower the speed of the train, the less danger there is.

Several elected officials hammered out the need to be reassured.

“We analyzed the company’s file and took action for the 253 anomalies observed. Transport Canada returned to the scene on September 10 and 11 for follow-up inspections and to see if the company kept its records up-to-date. There are no major flaws that have emerged since May and the company has cooperated, “says Diogo, confirming that the audits are random.

Transport Canada representatives made a presentation to Sherbrooke City Council that had not been announced. Transport Canada’s Director General of Rail Safety, Brigitte Diogo (right) had to answer many questions from elected officials and citizens present on the municipal council.
Transport Canada representatives made a presentation to Sherbrooke City Council that had not been announced. Transport Canada’s Director General of Rail Safety, Brigitte Diogo (right) had to answer many questions from elected officials and citizens present on the municipal council.

“We check on the ground, but not in all cases. It’s done randomly. But when we look at the causes of rail accidents, accidents caused by rail defects are on the decline … ”

“I’m not trying to minimize the concerns or trivialize them,” says Brigitte Diogo.

Transport Canada adds that the railway in the Sherbrooke area is Class 2, which means that the maximum speed allowed is 25 miles per hour.

The ministry adds that a ministerial order issued on September 6 requires the railway to conduct three ultrasonic inspections over the next 12 months, repair defects by October 15, and maintain a reduced speed in areas where are necessary.

Stéphane Simoneau took the opportunity to deplore that he can not know what materials are running on the Sherbrooke railways. “Saint-Laurent Atlantique provides us with information at the beginning of the year, but I have never retrieved these documents from the CMQ. ”

Transport Canada has agreed to discuss with citizens on City Council but has declined all media interview requests.

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“It lacks treasure and conviction”

The attempt to reassure Sherbrooke’s elected officials on the safety of the railways in Estrie seems to have failed. Chair Nicole Bergeron said she was disappointed.

“It lacks treasure and conviction. I hope the federal people will hear us and make changes to the law. I am far from certain that people have been reassured. I feel that we are an underclass compared to Western Canada. ”

Ms. Bergeron would have expected that in a region such as Estrie, which experienced the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, Transport Canada is doing more than random checks for the conformity of the work on the railway. “When I hear our emergency coordinator who does not manage to get the list of materials that are going around, I have doubts about the implementation of the 253 patches. ”

Danielle Berthold explained that the public safety committee did not want to recommend a ban on running on the railways because this power is not the responsibility of the City. “We do not have this authority. ”

Mayor Steve Lussier assured that he would be on the lookout. “It’s worrying what’s going on. ”

Annie Godbout felt a bit stuck in Transport Canada’s presentation. “I understand that it’s consistent, but I’m just as worried about the condition of the rails. The law must be tightened, otherwise it does not solve anything. ”

Paul Gingues noted that Transport Canada does an outstanding job in Western Canada. “They could do it here too. I do not feel that it is exceptional here. Dangerous goods are circulating on all types of rails, it scares me. ”

Pierre Avard believes that Transport Canada felt the hot soup because of the election period. “There should be elections more often. It’s rare that people from Ottawa come to see us. I am not sure we will have the same listen after the election. They did not convince me. ”

Claude Charron proposed bringing the Sherbrooke resolution to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, where it sits, to obtain the support of as many municipalities as possible.

Finally, the emergency measures coordinator, Stéphane Simoneau, felt that this was a first step on the part of Transport Canada.

“The goal of reassuring the citizens is not achieved but we are in the right direction. We got Transport Canada’s presence to listen to the public. It’s not the same thing as if it had been done by email. Week after week, the department finds the words to reassure me. But we have not found the solutions yet.

“I come out of the meeting with the citizens with confidence. One of the things that does not work is the level of security in the urban perimeters, while the least secure level is allowed. Transport Canada is our only lever to change things. In this debate, I think citizens are right. ”

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“We do not have a vision that we are safe”

The 50 minutes spent with Transport Canada representatives have not made it possible to find a solution for rail safety, according to the members of the Coalition of Citizens Committed to Railway Safety in Lac-Mégantic and the citizens of the Deauville sector.

Robert Bellefleur of Lac-Mégantic believes that there has been progress in mutual understanding. “Transport Canada believes that the current standards are being applied when we, as citizens, find that if that’s the standard, maybe we should revise them and make them tougher.

“I am satisfied with the meeting. It’s important that we interact so that we can understand each other better. They too must go down to the level of the citizen who lives on the edge of the rails to feel the fear that people have of the train. The train used to be a friend, but today, with what it carries, it has become an enemy. Standards need to be strengthened if the public is to feel safe.

“We do not have a vision that we are safe. The rails hilly. The crosses are rotten. The convoys waltz on the rails. ”

Mr. Bellefleur adds that the Coalition has advised Transport Canada that its formal notice is being maintained for stopping the transportation of dangerous goods.

Anne LeBel, who represents the citizens of Deauville and Magog, does not trust Transport Canada.

“We can not stop there. We are ready to work with all citizens’ committees that have the desire to change things. Our power is to reunite and to no longer tolerate railways being in the state they are in even if they meet the standards. These standards serve the railways much more than the citizens.

“We looked at the possibility of a round table, but Transport Canada has pulled back. They did not feel comfortable pursuing a discussion with us since there was a formal notice that was filed. We can honestly say that we do not have complete confidence in Transport Canada, so it is difficult to establish a healthy and constructive collaboration. “

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