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This article was published 19/2/2019 (461 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — An automated emergency brake was involved in Saturday’s derailment of a Winnipeg-bound oil train travelling nearly 80 kilometres per hour in Western Manitoba, but it's unclear what caused the derailment.
The Transportation Safety Board released its initial findings Tuesday as it probes how the CN Rail train managed to derail on flat ground, causing a leaking pile-up of 37 tanker cars. Automated emergency brakes can be triggered when a train detects an object between rail cars, though it's unclear whether this is what happened Saturday.
The early-morning incident occurred in a rural area near St. Lazare, which is located 10 kilometres east of the Saskatchewan border and close to the Assiniboine River.
According to the TSB, an arms-length agency that probes incidents and proposes policy changes, the train consisted of "110 tank cars loaded with crude oil, was proceeding eastward at about 49 mph," or 79 km/h.
The TSB did not say the train had exceeding speed limits, which are generally 60 miles per hour in this stretch of the CN Rivers subdivision.
Of the 37 tank cars that derailed, "the fifth and sixth cars remained upright and had no visible tank damage or leaks" the TSB said, with the rest falling off the track and piling over a stretch of roughly 100 metres.
The cars involved were DOT-117R tanks, meaning they were retrofitted with a jacket and puncture-resistant head shield. Canadian and American authorities compelled those upgrades in the wake of the 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster, which killed 47.
TSB crews remain on scene, in part to determine how much oil spilled. The agency plans to remove parts of the track and certain tank cars to examine them in more detail.
There was no fire nor injuries. Fuel did not enter the Assiniboine River, but those near the scene said it sat atop a frozen oxbow.
CN’s Rivers subdivision is one of Canada’s busiest rail routes.
Previously, the Free Press reported on years of issues at the bunkhouse the company uses for its workers to rest during multi-day trips on that subdivision. As recently as this past summer, workers have reported sleeping on floors and couches.
Last month, two oncoming trains collided near Portage la Prairie, 238 kilometres east of Saturday’s incident, near a bridge where two lines of track merge.
A historic amount of crude oil is moving by rail across Canada, due to backlogs in pipeline construction. According to American data, more than two million barrels of Canadian crude is being exported by rail each month into Midwest states through lines in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and northwestern Ontario.
That’s a doubling from the amount of oil sent along that line from August back until 2012, when authorities started publishing that data.
Updated on Wednesday, February 20, 2019 at 2:01 PM CST: Updated.