Updated: Canadian Pacific working to increase safety

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Lisa Goudy
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The rail yard is seen from Home Street on March 18, 2014.

CP makes presentation on operations safety to executive committee

Only 0.003 per cent of Canadian Pacific (CP) transported dangerous goods result in a spill.

CP is looking to decrease that number.

“Part of the way we’re doing it is through increased awareness (and) … the enhanced training that we provide specifically to fire department,” said Mike LoVecchio, director of government affairs with CP, “but we also think there are some proximity issues that need to be addressed,” said Mike LoVecchio, director of government affairs with CP.”

He made a presentation to executive committee at Monday’s meeting regarding operations safety in the community. After a number of questions by councillors, his presentation was received and filed.

LoVecchio said developers like building near railroads because property values are lower. However, people who purchase property near railroads complain about the noise and vibration to CP. Typically, those people have lived there within the last six months and believe trains run once or twice a day in daytime hours.

But trains run 24/7 and between 30 and 38 trains run through Moose Jaw each day.

“Further discussion needs to occur at a municipal level as to what the obligations and responsibilities you have as you plan your community,” said LoVecchio. “It is unfortunate that it has taken a tragedy like Lac-Mégantic to create this discussion, but nonetheless it’s a responsibility.”

He said Moose Jaw is an “extremely important terminal” for CP.

“This is a terminal of national significance,” he said. “It is the proximity to the United States that makes this terminal unique and vital.”

LoVecchio said CP has seen a “significant drop” in safety incidences, with a 76 per cent reduction in the last three decades. The movement of dangerous goods consists of five per cent of all goods CP moves and 99.997 per cent of those reach their destination safely. CP is obligated under Canadian law to move dangerous goods.

CP is involved with the Moose Jaw Fire Department for training and tabletop exercises with the city and surrounding rural municipalities.

He added training and technology have improved safety on rail lines.

“What you have in the tracks that transit Moose Jaw is some of our highest capability track in the network. It’s some of the fastest track we have,” said LoVecchio. “It is fully covered with centralized traffic control, the signals that you see adjacent to the tracks. We also have some trackside technology.”

Those technologies include hot box detectors and wheel impact detectors. Hot box detectors, placed every 30 miles in CP’s 16,000-mile network, read the temperature of each wheel and the location as it passes through. That data is sent to the train and CP’s operations centre.

If an elevated temperature is detected, it will radio that information and the crew can “bring the train to a controlled stop rather than throwing the emergency break and stopping the train immediately,” he said. An inspection then takes place.

“That piece of technology in particular, more than anything, has probably been responsible for the reduction in incidents,” said LoVecchio. “The hot box detectors don’t take coffee breaks. Their kids don’t get sick. It’s a piece of technology. It’s always on.”

The wheel impact detectors work the same way. They measure the force of the impact of the wheel as it passes over sensors. If there is a problem, mechanics will come by to the tracks and replace the wheel.

“With steel wheels, as they get out of shape, maybe the train came to a skid somewhere along the way or just general wear and tear, the wheel will get a little bit out of round and that’s the bang-bang-bang noise that you hear when you’re near a train as it’s passing by,” said LoVecchio. “Within certain margins, that’s not a problem, but beyond certain margins, especially in very cold weather, that impact will start to do damage either to the wheel or to the track and that could lead to a derailment.”

To read about what's involved in Railroad 101 training, go here.

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

Organizations: Canadian Pacific, Moose Jaw Fire Department

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Lac-Mégantic, United States

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