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Associated links (R22D0106)

Incorrectly lined switch led to 2022 derailment of a CN freight train near Huntington, Quebec

Dorval, Quebec, 08 February 2024 — Today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released its investigation report (R22D0106) into the 2022 derailment of a Canadian National Railway Company (CN) train near Huntingdon, Quebec.

On the evening of 11 December 2022, a CN freight train was travelling northward in the Carr siding on the CSX Transportation Montreal Subdivision. As the train approached the north siding switch leading on to the main track, the two head-end locomotives and six intermodal platforms derailed while travelling over a switch point derail linked to a radio-controlled switch system. There were no injuries, and none of the cars carrying dangerous goods derailed.

A derail is a physical defence that prevents any unauthorized movements or unattended rolling stock from entering the main track. In the derailing position, the device is designed to derail equipment rolling over it. The investigation determined that the locomotive engineer’s attention was divided when he entered the code controlling the radio-controlled switch while performing other activities. Since the switch was not set in the reverse position allowing the train to enter the main track, the power-operated derail linked to the system remained in the derailing position.

After the incorrect switch position was selected, the switch target light then went from red to green, indicating that the switch was lined for the direct route instead of the reverse position. Additionally, the crew heard a radio message transmitted by the system, confirming the switch position. The train crew concluded that the auditory and visual confirmations issued by the power-assisted switch system corresponded to the required route for the train to leave the siding. The crew was unable to visually confirm the position of the derail due to darkness from the time of day and the distance from the switch point derail. The train continued to accelerate before derailing as it passed over the switch point derail.

Data recorded by locomotive voice and video recorders (LVVRs) enable TSB investigators to determine, objectively and reliably, the possible role of human factors in a railway occurrence. In analyzing the data from the lead locomotive’s LVVR system, the TSB found that there was no voice recording from inside the cab. The lack of voice data from the locomotive cab’s LVVR system meant that it was impossible to determine the verbal communications between the train crew members during the occurrence.

The investigation found that the lack of audio was related to the georeferencing system, which allows the cab voice recording to be deactivated when the train is operating in the United States (U.S.) in order to comply with U.S. regulations. Because the accident occurred near the Canada–U.S. border, the system did not activate the audio recording from the microphones in the cab.

In February 2023, the TSB issued Rail Transportation Safety Information Letter 01/23, “Missing audio channel in locomotive voice and video recorder (LVVR) data,” to Transport Canada (TC). The letter stated that TC may wish to verify the functionality of LVVRsystems operated by railway companies and confirm that all of the parameters required under the regulations are being correctly captured and recorded.

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