Use of handbrakes mandated on Canadian railways following fatal Field, B.C. derailment

The federal government is enforcing new braking regulations on trains travelling along Canada’s railways following a massive and deadly derailment near Field, B.C.

Three crew members were killed early Monday when the 112-car Canadian Pacific Railway (CP Rail) train they were on started moving on its own after being parked for two hours with airbrakes applied.

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The train sped down a steep grade between the Spital Tunnels — built in the early 1900s to accommodate the grade in the Kicking Horse Pass — with 99 cars and two locomotives derailing.

Several cars and the locomotive believed to be carrying conductor Dylan Paradis, locomotive engineer Andrew Dockrell and conductor trainee Daniel Waldenberger-Bulmer, plunged into the Kicking Horse River.

In the early stages of its investigation, the Transportation Safety Board said no handbrakes were applied while the train was stopped.

Until the investigation into the derailment is complete, no other train across the country will be parked in the same way.

“As a precaution, until such time that the exact cause of the accident is determined, my department has issued a ministerial order under the Railway Safety Act to all railway companies mandating the use of handbrakes should a train be stopped on a mountain grade after an emergency use of the air brakes,” Garneau said in a statement Friday afternoon.

“This order takes effect immediately and will remain in effect as long as necessary.”

Garneau said Transport Canada is also conducting an investigation into the tragedy, adding that a minister’s observer has been assigned to keep him apprised of the investigation’s progress.

“As I have said many times before, rail safety is my top priority and I will never hesitate to take appropriate actions when necessary,” Garneau said.

According to a report on the CP Rail website, the company studied the effectiveness of airbrakes in extreme cold, finding that cold temperatures cause an increase in the amount of air that leaks from a train’s air-brake system.

“This is a major challenge,” the report said.

At the time of the derailment, it was about -20 C.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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