Defective Brakes, Inadequate Inspections Led to Freight Train Runaway in Northern Quebec

GATINEAU, QC, Jan. 21, 2013 /CNW/ - In its investigation report (R11Q0056) released today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) found defective brakes caused a Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway iron ore train to run away down a steep grade near Dorée, Quebec, on 11 December 2011. Braking-system defects were not found by the standard inspections before departure.

While descending a steep slope, the locomotive engineer had to use emergency brakes to stop the train, as he could not control its speed using the normal braking system. After stopping the train, the locomotive engineer secured the train by using the hand brakes and waited for assistance. An hour later, the train began to move. Despite the locomotive engineer's attempts to stop the train, it travelled almost 15 miles, reaching a maximum speed of 63 mph. The train stopped at the bottom of the slope. There were no injuries and no derailment.

The investigation found that braking system inspections by the railway company were insufficient. Only a few of the iron ore cars had their braking systems thoroughly checked before putting them into service. Inspectors used inadequate pre-departure inspection methods. This led to braking system leaks and defects not being detected.

Following the incident, the Newfoundland and Labrador government ordered thorough brake inspections on each of the iron ore cars. The company completed all the necessary work for the cars to comply with Association of American Railroads standards.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

SOURCE: Transportation Safety Board of Canada

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