Rail safety in B.C. questioned following Quebec tragedy

Freight trains commonly carry dangerous goods across B.C., but details on types and quantities not common knowledge
Dan Burritt and Chris Brown
CBC News
Date published: 
Tue, 2013-07-09

Following a massive, deadly fire sparked by the derailment of a train in Quebec, questions are being asked about the safety of hazardous goods rail networks in British Columbia.

Early Saturday morning, a parked train carrying crude oil rolled away and crashed, sparking multiple explosions and a major fire in the community of Lac-Mégantic. Thirteen people have been confirmed dead and around 50 remain missing as of Monday.

The incident has shone the spotlight on the contentious political debate over oil transportation and Canada's rapidly expanding oil-by-rail industry.

Four years ago, just 500 rail car loads of oil were moved by Canadian railways. By the end of this year, it is expected to be more 140,000 loads. In the future, B.C. could see a large chunk of that share.

Earlier this year, newspaper tycoon David Black said although he would prefer a pipeline, Alberta crude could be sent to his proposed refinery in Kitimat by rail.

John Bennett, speaking for the Sierra Club, said the increase of oil shipments by rail could only lead to a predictable, disastrous outcome in light of current safety requirements.

"We've been looking at how we can put pressure on the federal government to improve the safety, but it hasn't taken it seriously and this is the result," Bennett told CBC News.


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