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Canada introduces train speed restrictions after second derailment in two months

13 February 2020

The Saskatchewan government has said that around 1.2 million litres of oil was spilt following the derailment of a Canadian Pacific freighter on February 11 – the second derailment in the last two months. Temporary speed limits on trains hauling dangerous goods have been announced after the crude oil freighter derailed and caught fire.

Accident site of December's derailment - Image: TSB
Accident site of December's derailment - Image: TSB

The incident occurred around 72 miles (116km) east of Saskatoon near Guernsey, Saskatchewan which was evacuated due to concerns about air quality. No injuries were reported and both train operators escaped unharmed after 32 cars came off the tracks. The freighter derailed about six miles away from the location of another derailment in December 2019 in which 1.5 million litres of crude leaked.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has opened an investigation into the latest derailment while an investigation into December’s derailment continues.

The spilt oil from last week’s derailment caught fire and thick, black smoke could be seen for miles around. The spill was restricted to the railway and highway ditches meaning a relatively small area was impacted. The frozen ground at the site meant that there was also a reduced risk of contaminants penetrating too deep into the soil. The fire eventually burnt out a day later.

In response to the derailment, Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said that as of February 15 trains hauling more than 20 cars of dangerous goods would be limited to 25 miles per hour (40 kph) for the next 30 days. This period could be extended depending on the findings of the ongoing investigations.

The speed restrictions could have a knock-on effect on the economy with engineers and trains spending longer on individual journeys.

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