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TSB: Competing priorities led to Canadian National train collision

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DORVAL, Canada – Today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) issued its investigation report (R14D0011) into a collision between two Canadian National (CN) trains in Montreal, Quebec.

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DORVAL, Canada – Today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) issued its investigation report (R14D0011) into a collision between two Canadian National (CN) trains in Montreal, Quebec. There were no injuries; however, both trains sustained damages and approximately 4000 litres of diesel fuel was spilled.

On 23 February 2014, a Canadian National yard assignment train was traveling with 25 loaded cars on the freight track of the Montreal Subdivision. At about midnight, the train went through a stop signal and collided with the side of another CN train travelling on the north (adjacent) track in the opposite direction.

The investigation determined that, as the yard assignment train was approaching the junction between the freight track and the north track, the rail traffic controller (RTC) initiated a radio communication with the crew requiring them to copy instructions. During the following minutes, the crew prioritized the task of copying the RTC’s instructions over the operation of the train and the observation of the track and applicable signals. Consequently, the stop signal was not identified resulting in the collision.

The locomotives of the yard assignment train were controlled using a remote control locomotive system called a “Beltpack.” An examination into CN’s Beltpack practices revealed that CN does not limit the train tonnage, length, or territory characteristics for Beltpack operations. Furthermore, even though the Montreal Subdivision presents some unique characteristics and challenges, CN has not conducted a specific risk assessment for Beltpack operations on this subdivision. The investigation concluded that, if a thorough analysis of risks is not carried out for the operation of Beltpack trains on main track, the vulnerabilities involved in this type of operation will not be identified, and appropriate mitigation measures will not be implemented to protect the public.

Following railway signal indications is on the TSB Watchlist. The Board is calling for the implementation of additional physical safety defences to ensure that railway signal indications governing operating speed or operating limits are consistently recognized and followed.

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