TSB urges new way to test train brakes as probe into fatal B.C. crash continues

TSB urges new way to test train brakes as probe into fatal B.C. crash continues

CALGARY — The Transportation Safety Board says there should be a better way of determining whether a train’s brakes are working as they should.

The agency wrote to Transport Canada last month asking what it intends to do about shortcomings with the current method for testing air brakes.

The issue came up during the board’s ongoing investigation into a Canadian Pacific train derailment near Field, B.C., that killed three railroaders last year.

The agency says that train passed the No. 1 brake test in Calgary before it set out on the fatal trip.

The No. 1 test is meant to verify that at least 95 per cent of a train’s air brakes are operative, but does not physically measure their force or effect.

The safety board says research comparing brake testing methods, along with concerns flagged by Canadian Pacific employees before the Field derailment, suggest the No. 1 brake test is not reliable.

“Given this information, Transport Canada is advised that an alternate approach to determining the effectiveness of freight car air brakes is required to ensure that departing trains have sufficient effective brakes to operate safely,” the board wrote in its April 17 letter.

“The TSB would appreciate being advised of TC’s position on this issue, and what action, if any, will be taken in this regard.”

The Vancouver-bound Canadian Pacific grain train was stopped on a mountain slope in the frigid early-morning hours of Feb. 4, 2019, when it began moving on its own, sped down a treacherous hill in Yoho National Park and plummeted from a bridge over the Kicking Horse River.

Conductor Dylan Paradis, engineer Andrew Dockrell and trainee Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer died.

Ninety-nine of the train’s 112 cars and two of its three locomotives derailed.

The train’s previous crew had been unable to control its speed and brought it to an emergency stop before the crash, the safety board said.

The agency noted in its letter that Transport Canada, the National Research Council and Canadian Pacific began a research project in 2015 looking at an air-brake test called automated train brake effectiveness.

Researchers examined wheel temperature data from detectors at the bottom of big hills where prolonged applications of air brakes were needed to control train speed.

Early results in 2016 found a high frequency of grain cars with cold wheels were under-braking.

Researchers then compared that test with the No. 1 brake test on 44 grain trains. The testing being researched found 695 cars with ineffective brakes, whereas the No. 1 brake test only found five.

The board also said in its letter that it reviewed hazard notifications that Canadian Pacific employees had submitted to the company’s health and safety committee before the fatal derailment.

It found several cases where train crews had difficulty controlling speed in cold weather while descending the same steep hill in the Rocky Mountains where the crash happened.

“These hazard notifications document air-brake performance issues on unit grain trains that had successfully passed a No. 1 brake test.”

Transportation Safety Board spokesman Alexandre Fournier said Transport Canada has not responded to the letter, and is not required by law to do so.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2020

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID-19: One more death in central zone

Ponoka County on province’s watchlist

Photo submitted/ Millet In Bloom
Town of Millet declared Best Blooming Community

The Town of Millet is being recognized for their efforts to meet the challenges of 2020.

Many rural municipalities were concerned about a proposed reduction to their industrial revenues, but Alberta’s Municipal Affairs minister has come up with an alternative solution. (Photo contributed)
Province and rural municipalities agree on a plan to support Alberta’s energy industry

Creating new wells or pipelines would result in a three year ‘tax holiday’

Paved path to the accessible dock at Agur Lake Camp. Photo submitted/ Debbie Schneider.
B.C. Camp extremely grateful for a Calmar Business’ generous donation

B.C.’s only fully accessible campground floored by a Calmar Business’ generosity.

Executive Director of Agape Kate Halas (left) receives $1000 from Sgt. Eric Christensen (right) on behalf of Agape. Photo/ Shaela Dansereau.
Former Wetaskiwin Peace Officer wins provincial award; gives back to Wetaskiwin community

Eric Christensen has won the Alberta Association of Community Peace Officers Award of Excellence.

In this photo provided by Shannon Kiss, smoke from the CalWood Fire billows, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, as seen from Gunbarrel, Colo. (Shannon Kiss via AP)
‘First guys out:’ Western Canadian air tanker fleet busy despite drop in wildfires

CEO believes wildfires have become more dangerous in recent years as people live closer to where they start

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

robbery
UPDATE: Suspect identified in early morning shooting

Rimbey RCMP had responded to a complaint of an armed robbery at the Bluffton City General Store

Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen (Alberta government photo)
Big boost for Alberta college agriculture research

The $2-million agreement to benefit Lethbridge College’s applied research team

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Canadian couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Employee Sophia Lovink shows off a bag of merchandise in Toronto on Thursday, June 11, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Canada gets C-average grade on 2nd year of cannabis legalization

Cannabis Council of Canada releases report card on federal government and legalization

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Restrictions on non-essential travel between Canada and the United States are being extended until at least Nov. 21. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Non-essential travel restrictions at Canada-U.S. border extended to at least Nov. 21

The restrictions do not apply to those providing essential services in either country

(The Canadian Perss)
Banff wolves have lower survival rate due to hunting, trapping outside park boundary

Researchers looked at 72 radio-collared wolves in the national park from 1987 to August 2019

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Miramar Regional Park in Miramar, Fla., Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is still hopeful about the Keystone pipeline if there’s a change in government in the U.S. next month, saying Alberta has been engaging with American officials from both sides of the aisle. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Carolyn Kaster
Alberta premier says he’s still hopeful about Keystone, even if Biden elected

The Alberta government has agreed to invest about US$1.1 billion as equity in the project

Most Read