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News release

Human intervention likely led to October 2015 uncontrolled movement and derailment of parked rail cars in Montréal, Quebec

Dorval, Quebec, 22 February 2017 –  Following the October 2015 uncontrolled movement and derailment of a parked cut of rail cars (a group of cars coupled together) on a non-main track in Montréal, Quebec, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) today released its investigation report (R15D0103), citing that human intervention likely put the rail cars in motion.

On 29 October 2015, a cut of 26 empty intermodal cars, which had been previously secured on a storage track near the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) Hochelaga Yard in Montréal started to roll. The cars rolled uncontrolled about 120 feet before striking a hinged derail. The derail, a mechanical device designed to stop uncontrolled rolling stock and equipment by derailing it, derailed only the first car before getting torn from the track. The remaining cars continued to descend the grade, reaching a second derail located approximately 400 feet further, which led to the derailment of the following four cars. Meanwhile, the first derailed car traveled over an embankment and struck a residential property. The occupants of this property, as well as those of six nearby homes, were evacuated. The residential property, the cars and the track sustained damage. No dangerous goods were involved, and there were no injuries.

The cut of cars had not moved since it was stored in May 2015. Since there had been no reports of extreme weather in the region, and that handbrake effectiveness does not generally degrade over time, the investigation determined that a human intervention had likely reduced the braking force, allowing gravity to set the cars in motion. Despite heightened surveillance in the area, railway personnel had been encountering trespassers regularly along the tracks where the cars were stored. However, the railway did not identify this condition as a hazard when choosing to store cars at this location, and no special inspections of the cars were being conducted.

In Canada, between 2006 and 2015, 397 occurrences involving uncontrolled movements of rolling stock or equipment were reported to the TSB, and about 8% of these occurrences were caused by human intervention. Because it is relatively simple to release the handbrake mechanism on a rail car, stored rail cars are vulnerable to tampering by unauthorized persons. If measures to prevent tampering with hand brakes on cars stored in areas frequented by trespassers are not taken, there is an increased risk that rolling stock will move uncontrolled. The Board has previously issued a recommendation for the requirement of fencing along the railway right-of-way in areas where there are frequent pedestrian incursions (R91-01).

Following the occurrence, CP took a number of additional measures to eliminate trespassing at this location.

See the investigation page for more information.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-994-8053