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Statement from the Chair on the 5-year anniversary of the tragic rail accident in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec

Gatineau, Quebec, 4 July 2018 —  Early in the morning of July 6, 2013, a train carrying 7.7 million litres of petroleum crude oil derailed in the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. The resulting fire and explosions killed 47 people. Another 2000 people were forced from their homes, and much of the downtown core was destroyed.

Five years later, Canadians have not forgotten the tragedy, nor has the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. Our thoughts are with the families and friends who lost someone in this tragic accident. Even before the TSB's final investigation report was complete, we issued three recommendations aimed at making Canada's rail network safer for everyone, and two more during the release of the final report. Since then, we have continued to push for action.

Much has been accomplished in the intervening years, but more remains to be done. For instance, although the "legacy" Class 111 tank cars involved in the Lac-Mégantic accident are no longer permitted to transport crude oil, the phase-in period for newer, more robust cars for the transport of flammable liquids is not yet complete – nor is this required before 2025. The railways, however, have made significant progress in terms of implementing emergency response assistance plans, and they have been conducting route planning and risk assessments whenever large amounts of oil are being moved. In the meantime, the issue of additional physical defenses, which the TSB has called for to help prevent uncontrolled movements, has yet to be sufficiently addressed. Transport Canada has also strengthened its oversight regime for the railway industry by conducting more frequent and comprehensive audits of railways' safety management systems, and by striving to ensure that each railway has completed its required corrective action.

A table showing the status of the five TSB recommendations can be seen below. Once all of them receive the TSB's highest rating of "fully satisfactory," the safety of Canada's rail network should be greatly improved. That won't bring back those who were lost that day, but it will be a big step toward making sure that an accident like this never happens again.

Kathleen Fox
Chair, Transportation Safety Board of Canada

TSB recommendations following the accident in Lac-Mégantic
Number Recommendation Current status
R14-01 The Department of Transport and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration require that all Class 111 tank cars used to transport flammable liquids meet enhanced protection standards that significantly reduce the risk of product loss when these cars are involved in accidents. Satisfactory intent
R14-02 The Department of Transport set stringent criteria for the operation of trains carrying dangerous goods, and require railway companies to conduct route planning and analysis as well as perform periodic risk assessments to ensure that risk control measures work. Fully satisfactory
R14-03 The Department of Transport require emergency response assistance plans for the transportation of large volumes of liquid hydrocarbons. Fully satisfactory
R14-04 The Department of Transport require Canadian railways to put in place additional physical defences to prevent runaway equipment. Satisfactory in part
R14-05 The Department of Transport audit the safety management systems of railways in sufficient depth and frequency to confirm that the required processes are effective and that corrective actions are implemented to improve safety. Satisfactory intent

This statement has been amended to correct an error. The original version stated incorrectly that the TSB had issued just two recommendations prior to the completion of the final investigation report.

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