Union, CP Rail dispute safety record following several derailments

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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TORONTO A railway workers union president is clashing with Canadian Pacific Rail over safety after several train derailments in the past two weeks.

The president of the union representing railway maintenance workers is calling on Canadian Pacific Rail (TSX:CP) to invest more money in its lines, but the company maintains its safety record is tops in North America.

William Brehl, who heads the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, said hes looking for the company to inject cash after a 20-car derailment in west Quebec.

No one was hurt when the cargo train went off the tracks near Dalhousie Mills, Que. at about 4 a.m. Friday. Most of the cars were empty, while four were carrying used automotive parts.

Several minor and two major derailments have also occurred on the CP Rail lines in Canmore, Alta. and Thunder Bay, Ont. since late January.

Were concerned that the infrastructure of the railways in Canada isnt at a safety level it should be at, Brehl said, adding he believes the latest incident could have been avoided.

On Feb. 3, the union sent a letter to Transport Canada outlining concerns the line carrying those cars was in disrepair, Brehl said. He added the same line had been earmarked for maintenance since 2005.

I think theres a direct correlation. When you stop doing the maintenance (and) when you stop taking care of the track but you keep running trains eventually they go on the ground.

However, there was no letter or conversation about the same concern received by CP Rail, said its spokesman Mark Seland.

Its irresponsible to indicate that an accident was unavoidable when a determination of cause has not been made, he said, adding it can take days or months to conduct an investigation.

CP Rail doesnt refute the derailments occurred, but there havent been more than usual, Seland said.

Canadian Pacific is the safest railway in North America and it has been for the 10 of the past 12 years, he said, referring to a designation by the U.S.-based Federal Railroad Administration.

Canadian Pacific has the lowest frequency of train incidents per year in all of North America.

Brehl said he believes the derailments are resulting from cuts by the company to previously planned upkeep work and track and equipment maintenance staff.

However, Seland said CP Rail takes care in prioritizing where work is done, and, while layoffs have occurred in the system, it didnt include workers in the area of the recent derailment.

Across (25, 760 kilometres) and 2,000 (track maintenance workers), plans can change daily. It doesnt represent any sort of systematic easement of safety practises.

Organizations: CP Rail, Canadian Pacific, TSX Transport Canada Federal Railroad Administration

Geographic location: North America, Canada, TORONTO Quebec Canmore Thunder Bay U.S.

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