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A Canadian National train carrying potash, which derailed shortly after leaving Winnipeg Thursday, had crossed a section of track that staff had repaired earlier in the day, the Free Press has learned.
In addition, the train had not been subject to a visual roll-by inspection because CN recently ended most visual checks in Winnipeg.
CN Rail cautioned against linking either issue with the derailment, which remains under investigation.
Twenty-six freight cars on the eastbound train derailed near the Trans-Canada Highway and Provincial Road 207, known locally as Deacons Corner, in the RM of Springfield, Thursday afternoon.
CN Rail says none of the cars contained dangerous goods, and that there were no injuries, though it set off a minor fire that was soon extinguished.
Winnipeg staff, whom the Free Press agreed not to name in order to protect their jobs, say there was a "work block" along a section of track Thursday before the incident.
That’s normally when a repair is ordered because the track fell short of inspection standards.
CN Rail disputed that characterization, with spokesman Jonathan Abecassis writing that it was "preventative maintenance related to tie-replacement, as part of our annual capital investments."
The train also did not get a visual roll-by inspection. As previously reported, CN Rail on April 14 quietly stopped visual inspections specifically in Winnipeg, in favour of automated inspection portals.
Since then, staff at the Symington Yard in eastern Winnipeg, only closely look at trains carrying dangerous goods and shifting loads when they cross the yard, unlike elsewhere on the CN network.
There are four automated portals around the city. The train that derailed Thursday had not yet reached the one at Ste. Anne, 33 kilometres east of the Symington railyard.
The portals use lasers, lights and cameras to capture detailed images of an entire train, which a computer and expert both inspect for issues.
"As the investigation into the cause is still underway, I would strongly urge caution before implying that roll-by inspections have anything to do with this," Abecassis wrote.
The Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the derailment, he said.
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