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News release

Associated links (R20W0025)

Rail failure led to 2020 train derailment and crude oil fire near Guernsey, Saskatchewan

Winnipeg, Manitoba, 7 June 2024 — Today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released its investigation report (R20W0025) into the derailment of a Canadian Pacific Railway Company (CP) freight train near Guernsey, Saskatchewan.

On February 6, 2020, the CP unit train carrying petroleum crude oil was travelling on the Sutherland Subdivision when a train-initiated emergency brake application occurred near a public crossing. Thirty-two tank cars derailed, releasing approximately 1.75 million litres of crude oil, which ignited. Highway 16 was closed and approximately 85 people were evacuated from Guernsey. There were no injuries.

The investigation determined that a plug rail joint, installed about one week prior to the occurrence, most likely failed as the train passed over it. Poor joint support and temperature swings following the installation of the plug rail likely resulted in the loosening of the joint bar bolts. The likely shearing of the loose joint bar bolts resulted in the failure of the joint and a gap in the rail, leading to the derailment of the train.

Just two months prior, a similar accident occurred near Guernsey (R19W0320) in which a CP freight train derailed, releasing 1.77 million litres of crude oil. As a result, the TSB issued two Rail Safety Advisories to Transport Canada (TC):

These two occurrences led to substantial safety action being taken by various stakeholders. TC issued ministerial orders instructing the rail industry to revise the Rules Respecting Key Trains and Key Routes, and Rules Respecting Track Safety. The rules were subsequently revised and now contain numerous safety improvements related to the operation of key trains and the inspection and maintenance of track infrastructure.

Since this occurrence, CP has implemented a number of safety measures including a wayside system for detecting rail breaks in non-signalled territory, such as the Sutherland Subdivision, increased its number of autonomous track geometry measuring systems, and upgraded the track infrastructure on the Sutherland Subdivision.

See the investigation page for more information.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-360-4376