OTTAWA— After the federal rail-safety watchdog reported an uptick in derailments, a train left its tracks Wednesday in Winnipeg, blocking traffic for hours.
No one was hurt in the derailment, and the train was not carrying dangerous goods.
Around 11:30 a.m., a BNSF train was heading north on tracks that run parallel to Empress Street when four of its cars left the track.
BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said the train spanned 30 cars, including empty tank cars. By mid-afternoon, it was still blocking Sargent Avenue, near an industrial park. None of the train cars had toppled, though a section of the track appeared to be lifted off the ground.
Two of the cars that left the track were empty tank cars, while the other two were boxcars loaded with lumber products, McBeth said.
The cause is still under investigation; the Canadian Pacific Police Service was on the scene.
Earlier Wednesday, Ottawa tabled the annual report of the Transportation Safety Board (TSB), an arm’s-length body that investigates incidents for shortcomings in protocols and laws.
The TSB was made aware of 1,172 railway accidents in 2018, a seven per cent increase from the previous year, and 10 per cent more incidents than the 10-year average.
Such accidents span trespassing and crossing accidents, as well as trains proceeding down the wrong line.
However, the TSB said "most of the increase" in accidents comes from secondary-track derailments "of five or fewer cars."
Railways have come under increased scrutiny in recent years as oil companies rely on them to get a glut of Canadian crude to markets.
Data from the United States Department of Energy shows Midwest states imported 2.5 times as much oil by rail from Canada in April as they did a year prior, and analysts believe most of that oil goes through Winnipeg’s rail lines.
Earlier this year, the Free Press revealed the TSB had raised the alarm about CN Rail employees switching off an alarm system for runaway trains, train crews not understanding safety protocols, and inadequate resting space for overnight operators.
The TSB also asked CP Rail to step up its training protocols after a conductor didn’t adequately secure his train, sending 100 grain cars careening through Minnedosa in western Manitoba.
The railway industry insists safety is its top concern and has described the Free Press reports as "one-off anecdotes."
Meanwhile, Transport Canada reports it is modifying employee qualifications with the goal of proposing new regulations in early 2020. The move is in response to the TSB asking for updated training requirements, which the agency said had only been tinkered with since 1987.
The TSB has said railways have made progress in securing transport, citing a phase-out of the most dangerous type of oil-tank car.