The effectiveness of the No. 1 brake test, which is conducted on trains to ensure they are up to safety regulations to operate, has been called into question recently by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB).
The TSB released a letter, which was issued on April 17, 2020, is a part of the ongoing investigation into the CP train derailment that occurred near Field on Feb. 4, 2019, fatally injuring conductor Dylan Paradis, engineer Andrew Dockrell and trainee Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer.
“Given this information, Transport Canada (TC) is advised that an alternate approach to determining the effectiveness of freight car air brakes is required to ensure that departing trains have sufficient effective brakes to operate safely,” the board wrote.
“The TSB would appreciate being advised of TC’s position on this issue, and what action, if any, will be taken in this regard.”
The train involved in the derailment was a distributed power train with one lead, one mid and one tail-end locomotive, had received and passed a No. 1 brake test before departing Calgary and heading toward Field.
A review of CP’s Health and Safety Committee hazard notifications revealed multiple instances of crews controlling speed descending the Field Hill in winter operating conditions.
According to these hazard notifications, there were issues with air brake performance on other unit grain trains travelling the same line, all of which had passed the No. 1 brake test.
To pass the No. 1 brake test, the regulations require that at least 95 per cent of air brakes to be operative on trains departing designated safety inspection locations. The actual brake force or its effect is not physically measured.
The TSB has advised TC that the No. 1 brake test does not reliably identify ineffective brakes in rail cars.
TC has not yet responded to the letter, although they are not required to do so. According to a TC spokeswoman Frederica Depuis, the ministry is reviewing the letter.
“Rail safety is the top priority for the minister of transport and the department is continuously looking for ways to make our railway system safer for Canadians,” she said.
“We share the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s commitment to advancing the safety of Canada’s transportation system and are committed to working with our partners to further enhance the safety of Canada’s railway system.”
The investigation is still ongoing, with a full investigation report expected upon completion.
The derailment became a national story earlier this year, when it became the source of a fifth-estate investigation through the CBC. Golden resident and former CP Police Service officer has been critical of CP’s processes that led to the derailment, believing an internal cover-up cut his investigation into the derailment short.
~ With files from The Canadian Press