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News release

Poor track conditions and inadequate drainage led to November 2015 derailment of a Huron Central Railway train near Spanish, Ontario

Gatineau, Quebec, 8 March 2017 – Citing poor track conditions and inadequate drainage as important factors, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) today released its investigation report (R15H0092) into the Huron Central Railway (HCRY) train derailment in 2015 near Spanish, Ontario.

On 1 November 2015, at approximately 2250 Eastern Standard Time, an HCRY freight train was proceeding westward on the Webbwood Subdivision at 25 mph when a train-initiated emergency brake application occurred at Mile 72.08, near Spanish, Ontario. Two separate groups of equipment derailed destroying about 225 feet of roadbed. No dangerous goods were involved and there were no injuries.

The investigation determined that the first group, three locomotives and the first eight cars of the train, derailed when the roadbed collapsed and the north rail joint broke apart under the train. The second group, five empty cars near the middle of the train, derailed due to compressive in-train forces when the cars impacted one another as the train rapidly decelerated during the derailment. The investigation also determined that HCRY's track inspection and maintenance program was not effective in dealing with various track infrastructure issues such as drainage, track instability, and rail joint defects. In this occurrence, a blocked culvert had resulted in inadequate drainage over several days of rain, allowing water to pool, migrate through the railway embankment and saturate the subgrade. If track inspectors are not provided with appropriate training on precursor ground hazards such as inadequate drainage, unstable ground conditions may not be detected in a timely manner, increasing the risk of derailment due to track conditions. Furthermore, a large number of rail joint defects were allowed to remain in service without performing the necessary follow up inspections regularly.

Following the occurrence, slow orders were issued for any identified track defects on the Webbwood Subdivision and the defects were repaired. The slow orders were removed only after repairs were completed and inspected by a supervisor.

As HRCY is a provincially regulated railway, the TSB investigation was conducted in accordance with a Memorandum of Understanding with the Province of Ontario.

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