TSB investigators recommend additional rail testing measures after Ontario derailment

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The aftermath of a 39-car derailment on Canadian National rails near Gogama, Ontario, in March 2015. Canadian rail regulators determined the incident was caused by an internal rail defect.
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
SUDBURY, Ontario — Investigators with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada are recommending that Transport Canada use predictive data techniques to inspect rail surface conditions after a 2015 derailment near Gogama, Ont.

The recommendation is in response to a March 2015 derailment of a Canadian National crude oil train that derailed on the railroad’s Ruel Subdivision near Gogama. While the train was traveling below the 50 mph posted speed limit, 39 tank cars derailed and more than 686,000 gallons of oil spilled, caught fire, and contaminated the nearby Makami River. A CN railroad bridge and about 1,000 feet of rail was also destroyed.

Investigators determined that certain data on deteriorating rail surface conditions are not always considered by Transport Canada when conducting its inspections.

“By integrating data on these ‘leading indicators’ — which could be predictive of future rail failures — the targeted inspections would be better focused,” says TSB Chair Kathy Fox.

Investigators determined that the derailment occurred after a repaired rail within a joint broke under the train. Three days prior to the derailment, a railroad track maintenance employee had repaired a broken rail by installing a plug rail. The employee removed the defective rail out of the track, inspected the remaining exposed rail ends, and installed the new plug rail.

According to the agency, a dye penetrant test used to find defects that are not always visible to the naked eye was not performed prior to the repair. This procedure is a requirement per CN standards.

As a result, an internal defect known as a vertical split head, was not detected and remained in the south rail after the track repair. Investigators also noted that the rail head ends within the joint were mismatched. To lessen the transition between the rail heads, a track maintenance worker ground the plug rail head end, but the work was insufficient, according to investigators.

TSB officials also say a mandatory slow order should have been implemented after the track work, but the railroad did not reduce its track speed.

Investigators concluded their investigation with additional comments on CN’s procedures for rail testing and installing a plug rail, noting that the protocols for such a procedure were difficult to find because they were located in multiple employee manuals. In addition, the agency says employees were not given checklists, which would have outlined the proper steps required to complete the work.

While the employee was aware of the dye penetrant test, he had not performed it or seen it done during the course of his duties, according to the report.

More information about investigation is available online.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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