News release

Inadequate track conditions led to June 2014 Canadian National Railway derailment near Faust, Alberta

Edmonton, Alberta, 22 December 2015 – In its investigation report (R14E0081) released today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) found that inadequate track conditions led to the June 2014 derailment of a Canadian National Railway (CN) freight train near Faust, Alberta. There was no release of product, and no injuries. Approximately 1200 feet of track was damaged.

On 11 June 2014, the last 20 cars of eastbound CN freight train 418 derailed at Mile 202.3 of the Slave Lake Subdivision. The 20 derailed cars included 17 Class 111A tank cars, which contained diesel fuel residue. The train was made up of 4 locomotives, one of which was isolated, and 126 cars (105 loaded cars, 4 empty cars and 17 residue tank cars). Among the 105 loaded cars were 20 loaded cars of petroleum crude oil (UN 1267).

The investigation determined that the derailment occurred when the track shifted laterally under the passing train due to irregular and insufficient rail anchoring, unstable subgrade and a build-up of stress in the rail generated by the train descending the grade. The investigation also highlighted that the stress had likely accumulated in the track due to repeated exposure to braking forces from previous eastbound trains on the long descending grade.

Following the July 2013 accident in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, the TSB issued a recommendation (R14-02) pertaining to the need for the railways to do better planning and on-going risk assessments for the movement of dangerous goods. Subsequent to the recommendation, Transport Canada (TC) issued emergency directives with respect to the Rail Transportation of Dangerous Goods which defined “Key Train” and “Key Route”. The response to this recommendation is currently rated as Satisfactory Intent.

Since 2013, there had been a significant increase in traffic levels over the Westlock and Slave Lake Subdivisions. The Slave Lake and Westlock Subdivisions met the criteria established for Key Route; and in this occurrence, train 418 met the criteria for a Key Train.

During spring/summer 2014, there were 6 derailments in the area, including this occurrence, all of which involved track related failures. With the significant traffic increase on this corridor since 2013, in advance of the recommended infrastructure improvements, the condition of the track could not handle the increased traffic. If the impact of increased traffic levels on track infrastructure is not adequately assessed or mitigated, the risk of derailments will increase.

After the June 2014 derailment, CN performed a risk assessment for the Edmonton-Hay River Corridor, which includes the Slave Lake Subdivision. The number of ultrasonic and geometry testing programs were increased and 2 new hot box detectors were added to the Slave Lake Subdivision.

The transportation of flammable liquids by rail has been identified as a risk to Canada's transportation system and it is included on the TSB's Watchlist.

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

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