Railway Act Review|| |
Strike coincides with
railway safety review
Source: Kamloops This Week
Published: May 18th 2007
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This week’s strike of CP track maintenance
workers didn’t go unnoticed by a panel tasked
with reviewing Canada’s Railway Safety Act.
The four-member panel, which is touring the
country from west to east, was in Kamloops
Wednesday to listen to issues relating to
railway safety. That same day, CP workers walked
off the job, including several workers in the
Although this most recent labour dispute is
primarily about wages, a thread common to many
such strikes is the issue of job safety and how
to improve it.
It’s an issue the panel, led by former
transportation minister Doug Lewis, will hear
about frequently as it traverses Canada from
Vancouver to Halifax.
Central to safety on the job is how to deal with
fatigue among train operators.
Lewis laughed when asked if conductor fatigue
can ever be solved by periodic reviews of the
Railway Safety Act.
He said it can be improved, but added he doesn’t
yet have any definitive answers, as the review
has only just begun with consultations in
Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.
Fellow panel member Gary Moser, a retired CEO of
the Health Employers Association of B.C., said
railroad unions do have a stake in how the
review unfolds, but noted it is not the panel’s
job to intervene in disputes between workers and
Kamloops railroader Brian Carroll, also known
for his candidacy for the NDP in the 2004
federal election, handed in a submission to the
panel that details how conductor-locomotive
operators are trying to manage fatigue.
“Most train operating personnel are on call 24
hours per day, seven days per week,” the 29-year
CN Rail veteran wrote in his submission.
Usually, he wrote, operators are well rested at
the start of a shift, but there are exceptions,
especially because train scheduling is often
“Conceivably we could, and do have,
train-operating personnel who have been without
sleep for over 30 hours handling trains that are
well in excess of a mile long and over 10,000
tons with dangerous commodities on board.”
The transport of dangerous goods is a separate
issue the panel will examine before submitting a
report to Minister of Transportation Lawrence
Cannon this fall.
“What we are transporting across the country
isn’t logs anymore,” Lewis said.
While in B.C., he and fellow panel members
visited the sites of several train derailments,
including Lytton, where a train carrying coal
jumped off the tracks last summer, sending
several cars in the Thompson River.
Lewis said one issue the panel is likely to
address in its report is how to improve the flow
of information between various government
agencies in the wake of a derailment.
The Railway Safety Act came into effect in
January 1989 and has to be reviewed