Transport Canada orders trains carrying hazardous goods to slow down

A photograph of a train with tall mountains in the background.

Transport Canada has issued a temporary order requiring freight trains carrying “dangerous goods” to slow down.

The order is in response to the derailment of a Canadian Pacific (NYSE: CP) crude oil train early Thursday morning in Saskatchewan. The derailment, which occurred at 6:15 a.m. CST, resulted in a fiery wreck, forcing the evacuation of citizens in Guernsey and closing nearby roads, FreightWaves reported

The order goes into effect at midnight on Friday and will be in place for 30 days. The order, which Transport Canada can issue under the Railway Safety Act, said trains hauling 20 or more cars of dangerous goods must limit their speed to 20 miles per hour (mph) in metropolitan areas and 25 mph outside of metropolitan areas. 

“I am very concerned about the derailments of railway cars containing dangerous goods in the past 12 months. That is why I am issuing an immediate order to slow trains carrying significant quantities of dangerous goods on federally regulated railway tracks across Canada,” said Transport Minister Marc Garneau on Thursday.

CP said it is working with local officials and regulators, and has deployed claims officers to assist community members displaced by the incident and a subsequent evacuation. The railway also said there were no crew injuries and its response teams worked with local first responders to put out the fire.

“CP fully supports this action and it has been implemented effective immediately,” said CP CEO Keith Creel. CP implemented an order of its own immediately after the derailment to slow down its crude trains. “Until we better understand the facts relating to today’s incident, it is prudent to operate with an abundance of caution. We equally share Minister Garneau’s concerns, and remain committed to safe operations, as we always have been,” said Creel.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said it has deployed a team of investigators to the site of the derailment.

Thursday’s train derailment came less than two months after a CP train hauling crude derailed — also near Guernsey.

A recent CBC documentary also raised questions about CP’s handling of the investigation into a fatal accident in February 2019. CP criticized the CBC’s reporting, calling elements of it misleading.

“Rail safety remains my top priority,” Garneau said. “[The order] is a precautionary measure being taken today, as we are seeing similarities between today’s accident in Guernsey, Saskatchewan and other recent accidents, such as weather conditions and speed. I have asked my officials to examine all issues related to these accidents to determine if additional safety measures will be required.”

Garneau continued, “I recognize there are economic impacts, but I cannot compromise on safety. I will not hesitate to take further swift action as is necessary.”

FreightWaves Canada correspondent Nate Tabak contributed to this report.