EDITORIAL: Going off the rails

The derailment of seven coal cars on the CN tracks just west of Cariboo Road in Burnaby brought last summer’s disaster in Lac-Mégantic a little closer to home.

Nobody was injured in Saturday’s incident, and the environmental damage to Silver Creek and nearby waterways from coal that spilled from three of the cars is still being assessed.

But for local politicians and concerned citizens, the derailment highlights the lack of control they have over the nature of goods transported through busy urban areas.

While trains pass through our region every day, most of us are oblivious to any concerns.

It’s only when something goes wrong that we start to pay attention.

The rail line through Lac- Mégantic was built in the late 1880s. It’s safe to say tens of thousands of freight trains rolled through the town before that fateful July night when a series of circumstances led to the 74-car train carrying crude oil running unattended for 11 kilometres before it jumped the tracks and exploded in the centre of town, killing 47 people and destroying more than 30 buildings.

While the risk of explosion from coal in open rail cars is minimal, the concern about lack of disclosure by rail companies, expressed by Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan and officials from municipalities across the country, is growing.

Recent changes to federal regulations that now require the largest of those companies to file reports to communities of what they’ve transported in the previous three months don’t go far enough.

Local officials need to know what’s going through their communities ahead of time, so they can better prepare for anything that could go wrong.

It’s not an unreasonable request.



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