By Craig Campbell
Local emergency responders are working closely with CN Rail to establish a Hamilton-specific protocol for rail emergencies involving hazardous material.
Hamilton fire chief Rob Simonds said he’s already met with CN representatives to discuss how new information about dangerous goods moving through the city by rail will be shared.
Simonds is preparing a rail safety report for city council and the city intends to create a community safety portfolio within the fire department to work more closely with CN.
In addition to the new requirement for CN to report to the city each year on the total amount and types of dangerous goods it transports through the community, Simonds said CN has informed Hamilton it plans to reduce speed of trains transporting dangerous goods through the city and is undertaking risk assessment of routes.
Lindsay Fedchyshyn, manager of public and government affairs for CN Rail, said the company has launched “targeted corridor risk assessments, examining rail line proximity to urban populations and associated infrastructure, environmentally sensitive areas … to develop enhanced safety processes for trains transporting dangerous goods.”
In Dundas alone, the CN Rail main line travels through the Royal Botanical Gardens, next to Hamilton Conservation Authority lands and along the Niagara Escarpment.
“Overall, we’re pleased with the recent changes introduced by the Federal government,” Simonds said. “Although it is always beneficial to have real time information, knowing the most common dangerous goods being transported through our city allows the Hamilton Fire Department to take a more focused approach to pre-incident planning.”
He said knowing the most common flammable, corrosive and poisonous material travelling through Hamilton allows the city’s Hazardous Materials Team to pre-identify strategies and tactics that will minimize the impact of a rail accident on the community.
“Although CN’s emergency plan is designed for a multitude of communities, our goal is to establish a Hamilton-specific protocol which would link their Emergency Response Team to the Hamilton Fire Department at the onset of an emergency,” Simonds said. “As we continue these discussions, our staff will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of Transport Canada’s newest regulation.”
CN Rail spokesperson Lindsay Fedchyshyn would not offer any details of the company’s interaction with the City of Hamilton, nor would she say if the route is the subject of a targeted corridor risk assessment.
“Risk assessments are conducted on corridors across the CN network, including the mainline corridor between Toronto and Montreal,” she said.
She said the company has started a voluntary program to reach out to municipalities and their emergency responders, on top of the new annual dangerous goods reporting requirement.
“CN believes the rail industry can enhance safety by working more closely with communities,” she said.