Transportation Safety Board Recommendation and Report on Gogama Derailment (Feb. 14, 2015)

It's becoming increasingly concerning that our federal government continues to tinker with a system that needs an overhaul.
Canadians in rail communities across this country look to our government to act on our behalf, to protect us, our families, and our neighbours. Public safety must come first.

We strongly believe that it’s our government’s responsibility to set the standards for industry to follow in order to ensure public safety.
Tinkering with the system will not be enough. We need substantive amendments to bring about meaningful change.

It seems that the TSB agrees with us!

Transportation Safety Board News Release

February 16, 2017

TSB calls for strategies to reduce severity of dangerous goods derailments following investigation into February 2015 accident near Gogama, Ontario

Sudbury, Ontario, 16 February 2017 – Today the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is issuing a recommendation (R17-01) calling for Transport Canada (TC) to develop strategies to reduce the severity of derailments involving dangerous goods. This recommendation was issued as part of its investigation (R15H0013) into the February 2015 derailment and fire involving a Canadian National Railway (CN) crude oil unit freight train near Gogama, Ontario.

On 14 February 2015, a CN unit train transporting 100 tank cars loaded with petroleum products derailed. It was travelling at 38 mph, below the 40 mph speed limit in place at the time. Twenty-nine tank cars of petroleum crude oil derailed and 19 of these breached, releasing 1.7 million litres of product. The crude oil ignited, resulting in fires that burned for 5 days. There were no injuries.

"This accident occurred at a speed below the maximum speed permitted by the Transport Canada approved Rules Respecting Key Trains and Key Routes," said Kathy Fox, Chair of the TSB. "The TSB is concerned that the current speed limits may not be low enough for some trains—particularly unit trains carrying flammable liquids. We are also calling for Transport Canada to look at all of the factors, including speed, which contribute to the severity of derailments, to develop mitigating strategies and to amend the rules accordingly."

The investigation found that the derailment occurred when joint bars in the track failed. Pre-existing fatigue cracks in the joint bars at this location had gone unnoticed in previous inspections. Once the fatigue cracks reached a critical size, the combination of the cold temperatures (-31 °C) and repetitive impacts from train wheels passing over the joint caused the joint bars to fail. These defects went undetected as the training, on-the-job mentoring, and supervisory support that an assistant track supervisor received was insufficient.

The cars in this train were Class 111 tank cars built to the newer CPC-1232 standard. Although this standard requires the cars to have additional protective equipment, the TSB determined that the speed of the train had a direct impact on the severity of the tank-car damage. Additionally, the lack of thermal protection contributed to thermal tears in those cars located in the pool fire, which led to additional product release. Consequently, the cars displayed similar performance issues as in the Lac-Mégantic derailment.

"The Transportation of flammable liquids by rail has been on the TSB Watchlist since 2014," said Chair Fox. "While stronger tank cars are being built, the current ones will be in service for years to come. The risks will also remain until all of the factors leading to derailments and contributing to their severity are mitigated. This is the focus of the recommendation we issued today."

See the investigation page for more information.


*******March 7, 2017******** Safe Rail Communities Comedy Fundraiser

Safe Rail Communities is pleased to announce that back by popular demand is our Comedy Fundraiser.

If you missed this fun night out last time, this is your chance to find out what all the lively laughter was about.

On Tuesday, March 7th, we will be back at the wonderful 3030 Dundas West venue on Dundas Street West in the Junction with a great line-up of comedians.

Join us for an evening of comedy featuring Herb Irving, Katie Westman, Martha O’Neill, Tony Krolo, Johnny Gardhouse, Bryan Hatt, Laurie Elliott, Andrew Chapman, Karen O’Keefe and Jeff Elliott!

Tickets are $25, and can be purchased at  or cash at the door.

We’ll also have another silent auction supported by local businesses.  There will also be SRC swag for sale; including our fabulous new SRC tote bags

All dollars raised will be put towards supporting the work that we do as a not-for-profit to raise awareness about and advocate for rail safety in rail communities across Canada.

As always, if you have any questions or would like to reserve a table, please feel free to connect with us at

Looking forward to seeing you on March 7th!

The Safe Rail Communities Team

New: Canada Wide Interactive Blast Zone Map

Ever wonder how many schools or hospitals fall within the Blast Zone? SRC has partnered with FracTracker Alliance to map these numbers in communities across Canada.

In August we launched the first interactive map is for the Greater Toronto Area. We're pleased to announce that Fractracker has created interactive maps for 15 Canadian cities, along with their surrounding areas. Just choose your city from the Bookmark tab (upper left on the map) and zoom in to see how may schools and hospitals are located in the Blast Zone.

Note: Blast Zone, schools and hospitals are not visible until you zoom in.

December 8 Conference (University of Ottawa): Have the Lessons of the Lac-Mégantic Rail Disaster Been Learned?

On December 8, 2016 representatives from Safe Rail Communities attended a conference organized by Bruce Campbell, former director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The event was co-hosted by the law schools of the University of Ottawa and York University and was a terrific opportunity to learn more about rail safety and the impacts of Lac Megantic, connect with others and learn about possible strategies moving forward.

In the words of the organizers:

"This conference will address four critically important issues: 1) the impact of the disaster on the Lac-Mégantic community; 2) the ability of the transportation regulatory system to ensure that the transportation of dangerous goods by rail can be done safely; 3) the ability of the Canadian justice system to deal with the consequences of  Lac-Mégantic and other major disasters, as well as the role of local authorities in the Canadian constitutional context; and 4) the implications of the disaster for the future development of energy transportation infrastructure and unconventional oil development."

For more on this important conference, please watch this video of the conference in whole.

SRC Newsletter December, 2016

It’s been just over a week since we held our very first Community Workshop on Rail Safety and Emergency Preparedness.  We had a great turnout, and terrific participation.  Find details of the event on our blog post, and watch the event in two parts:

Part 1
Part 2

The following items may also be of interest to you:

1. On Thursday, December 8th, the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa will host an important conference about the lessons of Lac-Mégantic.  There will be a variety of participants in attendance, including residents of Lac-Mégantic, legal experts, and CBC journalists.  Safe Rail Communities will also attend.  The detailed program and registration form can be found here in English, and here in French.

2. More than a year after two explosive derailments of volatile crude oil in Gogama, Ontario, residents remain concerned about visible oil in the nearby Makami River.  Over a million litres of oil was spilled into the river.  In October of this year, more than 100 people gathered on Highway 144 in protest to CN’s cleanup.  David Suzuki was recruited by the Ontario NDP, and recently visited the area.  He called the situation a ‘tragedy’, and asked, “…who is fighting for Mother Nature?”

3. A few updates related to Transport Canada:

  • There will be an accelerated phase out of DOT 111 tank cars.  Transport Minister Marc Garneau said that by 2025, the transport of flammable liquids will not be permitted in these cars.
  • Bruce Campbell, Visiting Fellow at the Faculty of Law (University of Ottawa), and former Director at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, explains why this acceleration is not enough.
  • The Transportation Safety Board recently released its findings regarding the cause of a 2014 fiery derailment in Saskatchewan.

Want to Take Action and support all Canadians living along rail lines across the country?

Make a donation to support Safe Rail Communities in our unwavering commitment to hold our government accountable on the issue of public safety.

Donate now

Contact your federal Member of Parliament (MP), and let them know that you are concerned about rail safety.  Ask them to support the recommendations of Safe Rail Communities.  Find your MP here.

Find your MP

Thank you, and please be in touch if you have any questions. 

We will be taking a few weeks’ break to enjoy the holidays with our families, and will back at work in the new year.  All the best to you and yours.

Keep it safe,

Helen, Patricia, and the
Safe Rail Communities' Team


Community Workshop: Rail Safety & Emergency Preparedness



After the surprising August 21st collision of two trains carrying dangerous goods in the heart of the west end of Toronto, many residents reached out to us to ask for support in preparing for a rail accident or disaster. 

Do you know what to do in the event of a rail accident?  Where could you get up-to-the-second information?  Where could you go?  Should you leave your home?

In response to all of these questions and more, Safe Rail Communities and Christie Dupont Rail Safety Group (in collaboration with York University's Disaster and Emergency Management Program are pleased to invite you to a Community Workshop on Rail Safety And Emergency Preparedness on Saturday November 19th from 1 pm to 5 pm. 

This event will be held in the auditorium of Christie Gardens at 600 Melita Crescent, Toronto, ON, and will include:

  • A presentation by Interim Fire Chief Matthew Pegg of Toronto Fire Services
  • A presentation by Boris Rosolak from the City of Toronto Office of Emergency Management
  • An update from Sheila Murray of CREW (Community Resilience to Extreme Weather). 
  • An update on efforts at City Hall from Sarah Doucette, Toronto City Coucillor, Ward 13
  • A summary by rail policy consultant, Greg Gormick, of the recent Toronto derailment and what can be done to mitigate the risks of future derailments
  • An interactive workshop in which all participants will have the opportunity to discuss and identify gaps in the emergency preparedness of their local community.
  • Launch of the MySafeRailApp, to be used by residents in emergency preparedness of railway emergencies (accidents or derailments).  MySafeApp is a part of a collaborative effort between York University's Disaster and Emergency Management Program, Advanced Disaster, Emergency and Rapid Response Simulation (ADERSIM) & Safe Rail Communities. The project is called "Enhancing Community Preparedness for Rail Emergencie" and is, generously, funded by the York Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, Global and Community Engagement Collaborative Project Fund.

The primary goal of this community workshop is to create an informed and collaborative environment in which participants can create a toolkit of resources for their neighbourhoods.

This event is open to individuals and those representing resident associations or other community groups. 

Please take a moment to share your thoughts on rail safety by completing our survey.  If you live outside of the Greater Toronto Area, please indicate where you reside in the first question:

Complete Survey Here

Light refreshments will be served.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at

Thank you.

We look forward to seeing you on November 19th!

Patricia, Helen, and the Safe Rail Communities Team

Emergency Preparedness Survey for Communities

Hello Everyone,

Hope your transition to fall activities has been smooth so far!

After the recent CP train derailment on Sunday, August 21st, in the west end of Toronto, our Safe Rail Communities inbox has been buzzing with inquiries from concerned residents who want to share their concerns and ask what they can do to mitigate the risk of a rail accident in their backyard.

Contacting your city councillor and federal MP is the best first step in reporting your concerns.  Safe Rail Communities has been pressuring government for the last two-and-a-half years for meaningful change to rail safety standards in Canada, and we won’t give up!  Your voice matters and can make a difference.  It’s our government’s job to protect us and keep us safe.  You can sign up for our quarterly newsletters at to find out about our latest efforts.

To address the public desire for more information about how to prepare and respond to a possible train accident or derailment, Safe Rail Communities is excited to share that we will be hosting a community workshop this November.   Our goal is to collaboratively create an emergency preparedness toolkit for any rail community.

At this time, we are asking for public input from residents of Toronto on this topic to ensure we consider the specific items that matter most to you.  If you are a resident in another Canadian community and would like to complete the survey, please identify the city/town and province in question # 1.

Please find the survey here.  It will take no more than 5 minutes of your time.

Thank you,

The Safe Rail Communities Team

Why the Accelerated tank Car Phase out Will do Little to Ensure Public Safety

By Bruce Campbell: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

(Behind the Numbers)

September 6, 2016September 6, 2016 Bruce CampbellLeave a comment

Transport Canada’s accelerated oil tank car phase-out: less than meets the eye

At the end of July, Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced Canada would accelerate the phase-out of the class of rail tank cars that exploded in Lac-Mégantic in July 2013, taking 47 lives. Rather than wait until 2018, as in the U.S., the minister told media Canada’s legacy DOT-111 cars would cease transporting crude oil by October 31, 2016.[1]

Improved DOT-111 tank cars still vulnerable. Image via Government of Canada.

Garneau called the move “another crucial step in improving the safety of communities along our railway lines.” Transportation Safety Board Chair Kathy Fox said it was “a positive step (that) highlights Canadian leadership in terms of action taken to improve tank car safety.” And a number of Quebec politicians, including the Québec Union of Municipalities, likewise welcomed the decision. But was it really such a crucial step? A closer inspection shows the risk to communities along rail lines used to transport oil and other dangerous products, remains high.

Garneau failed to mention in July that modified DOT-111 tank cars, called CPC 1232s, still carry, and will continue to carry for well into the future, the vast majority of crude oil currently transported in North America. US National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt, at a July 13, 2016 roundtable on rail tank car safety, referred to these CPC–1232 tank cars as, “a slightly improved version of the legacy DOT-111’s.” [2]

There has been a massive reduction in the number of legacy DOT-111 crude oil tank cars in circulation—the kind involved in the Lac-Mégantic disaster—but this is explained largely by a major slowdown in the amount of oil being transported by rail due to the collapse in oil prices.

There are basically three categories of tank cars that make up the North American crude oil fleet.  The first is the legacy DOT-111s—the kind that derailed in Lac-Mégantic. The second is the modified DOT–111s tank cars (built since 2012), which comply with the industry’s CPC 1232 standard (both jacketed and non-jacketed).

The third category of tank car is the state-of the-art DOT-117 model, built to new more stringent US and Canadian specifications based on lessons learned from Lac-Mégantic and other major accidents. They have been in production since 2015 and will fully replace the other models by 2025.

The major slowdown in transportation of oil by rail due to slumping demand is likely to persist for at least the next few years. As a result of this slowdown, the large majority of North America’s crude oil tank car fleet is currently not in service carrying crude oil, and is presumably idle or carrying other dangerous products.

By the first quarter of 2016, the crude oil tank car fleet in service had plummeted to 19,710 from 57,401 in 2015. The number of CPC-1232 cars in crude oil service had shrunk to 17,000, from 40,000 in 2015.  These “slightly improved” legacy DOT-111s represent the vast majority (86%) of tank cars currently in crude oil service.

The number of legacy DOT 111 tank cars in crude oil service dropped to a miniscule 708 from 30,000 in 2015. This is what’s left to eliminate according to AAR vice-president, Robert Fronczak.[3]  These are the cars targeted by Transport Canada’s accelerated phase-out timetable.

The non-jacketed version of CPC-1232s will not be removed from service in Canada until April 1, 2020—almost 4 years away. The jacketed version will be on the rails carrying crude oil until May 1, 2025—almost 9 years from now.

Over 10,300 tank cars have been built or retrofitted since 2015 to the new DOT 117 standard.  Just 20% of these are currently available to haul crude oil. The rest are earmarked for other dangerous goods.

How safe are these CPC-1232 crude oil tank cars?

In May 2016, a unit oil train carrying 102 cars of Bakken crude derailed near the town of Mosier, Oregon.  A number of its cars punctured at a speed of 25 mph, spilling their contents, which exploded and burned, narrowly averting loss of life. These cars were jacketed CPC 1232 models.  They will be allowed to carry crude oil in Canada and the US until 2025.

Disturbingly, according to information from the Transport Canada’s Transportation of Dangerous Goods Directorate (TDG), most jacketed CPC–1232s will be considered to have reached DOT–117 standard (denoted as DOT 117R) after only “very minor adjustments if any.”

There are in fact significant differences between newly constructed TC–117 cars and the retrofitted CPC-1232s, which will be reclassified as DOT-117R.  The latter have a 1/8 inch thinner shell, making them more prone to puncture.  Furthermore, the new DOT–117s have a ceramic thermal blanket. The jacketed CPC–1232s have only a fiberglass-insulated blanket, which has prompted concerns that it constitutes a weaker protection against rupture.[4]

In February and March 2015 respectively, two separate CN trains carrying crude oil (bitumen and synthetic crude) and petroleum distillate from Alberta, derailed near the town of Gogama in Northern Ontario.  Many cars punctured and spilled their contents, which exploded and burned for days, poisoning the waterways and wildlife. These tanks cars were all built after 2011, most to the non-jacketed CPC–1232 standard. Their sister cars will be on Canadian tracks for almost another four years. The largest of the two accidents derailed and the cars punctured at a speed of 38 mph, well below the permissible speed of 50 mph.

Between now and 2025 when they are fully replaced, the “slightly improved” CPC–1232s (2020 for the non-jacketed version)—which are still prone to puncture at relatively low speeds as evident from recent accidents—will continue to transport the vast majority of crude oil through populated communities in North America.

The huge number of CPC-1232s sitting idle at the moment can easily be pressed into service, instead of replacing what remains of the legacy DOT-111s, to meet any foreseeable increase in demand over the next 14 months and beyond. Under these circumstances, the announced accelerated phase-out of legacy DOT-111s by 6 to 14 months seems mainly symbolic.

Since Lac-Mégantic , the measures Transport Canada has taken to assuage public anxiety over the risks inherent in the movement of oil by rail fall far short of what needs to be done.

Far from being a “crucial step” in enhancing rail safety, the accelerated tank car phase-out announcement by the Transport Minister is largely smoke and mirrors.

A truly meaningful step reflecting the urgency of their removal would be for Transport Canada to advance the 2025 phase-out deadline for all CPC-1232 tank cars to 2020, if not sooner.  “…We face an unacceptable risk until this effort is completed,” in the words of National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt.[5]

Unfortunately, tank car manufacturers are now reporting that, far from capacity bottlenecks there is currently excess capacity—cars already built are not all finding buyers.[6]  Why? Potential buyers are stalling; with the replacement deadline far down the road, costs are trumping safety.

The people of Lac-Mégantic could be faced with the resumption of unit trains carrying volatile oil in what are still far-from-safe tank cars, through their town beginning in less than six months.

The cynic in me is inclined to suspect that this announcement was designed to mollify a traumatized community and divert attention from fundamental reforms to the rail safety regime that have yet to be made; and from its obligation to commit to build a bypass around the town.

Bruce Campbell is a visiting fellow at the University of Ottawa faculty of law. On leave from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, he is a recipient of the Law Foundation of Ontario Community Leadership in Justice Award

[1] They are called TC-111s in Canada, but for this article I use the American designation, DOT-111 and DOT 117.
[5] Ibid
[6] Ibid

SRC Podcast with Ecojustice lawyer, Charles Hatt- Why Environmental Assessments are Vital to Public Safety

SRC is excited to launch a series of podcasts with rail safety news, views and interviews, hosted by Katie Andrews. In our first podcast, you'll hear from Ecojustice's lawyer, Charles Hatt, why environmental assessments are vital to public safety and the environment. We hope you find it informative.
  Listen to our Podcast!

Keep it Safe!
Safe Rail Communities Team

Letter to Minister McKenna

Response from Minister Mckenna


NEW: GTA Interactive Blast Zone Map

Ever wonder how many schools or hospitals fall within the Blast Zone? SRC has partnered with FracTracker Alliance to map these numbers in communities across Canada.

The first interactive map is ready (for the Greater Toronto Area), and more will be completed in the next couple of month.