The four rail cars which came to rest just above the Thompson River.

The four rail cars which came to rest just above the Thompson River.

‘Catastrophic’ line failure probable cause of CP derailment

The lines at the derailment site west of Ashcroft were inspected on January 11, the day before the incident.

A CP train derailment near Ashcroft on January 12 is still under investigation; but at Ashcroft’s committee of the whole meeting on February 27 CP’s director of government affairs, Mike LoVecchio, told council, staff, and the public that the incident 2.7 miles west of the town was probably caused by a “catastrophic” failure of the rail line.

A PowerPoint presentation given by LoVecchio said that the probable cause of the derailment was a “rail flaw which failed rapidly under the train,” and added that the most recent track inspections of the area had been carried out on January 9 and January 11, with no defects noted.

“A very rapid failure of the rails occurs very infrequently, but they do occur,” said LoVecchio. He added that other factors include the extreme cold temperature at the time of the derailment, the fact that there are two very tight curves in the area, and that trains going through there are transitioning from a dropping grade to a rising grade.

Twenty-nine cars, starting four cars back from the two lead locomotives, left the tracks, with four sliding down the bank and stopping above the Thompson River. Between 120 and 160 metric tonnes of metallurgic coal were spilled at the site, and remediation work is still ongoing.

“There was no easy access to the site,” said LoVecchio. “The first people at the site walked in. CP rapidly deployed response teams from as far away as Vancouver and Calgary. Lots of equipment was brought to the area, and we heard about some congestion on Railway Avenue.

“We’re very grateful for, and want to acknowledge, the understanding residents showed during the response, and thank them for it.”

LoVecchio said remediation is still ongoing at the site, with efforts concentrating on the river, and showed several before and after pictures to indicate how much work has already been done. “We’re in discussion with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We continue to work on a plan to recover coal from the river, but there is not a lot in there. Most of it stayed on the shore.”

He added that for more than a decade, CP has been the safest rail operator in North America. “There are many ongoing safety measures, but we are always looking to improve, and training of personnel is ongoing.”