Insight: Quebec train set too few brakes, with deadly result

Insight: Quebec train set too few brakes, with deadly result
( Reuters ) – The handbrake is the railway diligence ’ sulfur ultimate fail-safe mechanism. It is supposed to help avert disasters like the one that engulfed a canadian town on Saturday, when a fugitive educate loaded with oil hurtled downhill, derailed and exploded, leaving 50 people abruptly or missing. Burnt trail cars are seen after a aim derailment and explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec July 8, 2013, in this picture provided by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. Canada/Handout via Reuters The dragoon initially blamed the catastrophe on the failure of the gearing ’ s pneumatic airbrakes after an engine fire, but the company acknowledged on Wednesday that the aim ’ s engineer did not apply an adequate number of handbrakes to hold the trail in place, and failed to comply with regulations. A Reuters recapitulation of canadian and U.S. regulations found that train operators are given considerable allowance to decide how many handbrakes are sufficient for any given caravan, depending on track conditions and the weight of the cargo.

Operators are only required to apply adequate of the handbrakes – one is found on every car – to ensure the train will not move even if other condom features, such as publicize brakes, hesitation. The issue of handbrakes is probably to prove central to how blame is apportioned for the deadliest union american railroad catastrophe in at least two decades, experts said. The canadian authorities have launched a criminal probe, and Quebec police inspector Michel Forget has said criminal negligence is one lead they are looking into. The question of whether enough of the aim ’ second handbrakes were used may affect the liability of the track company – montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway ( MMA ) – and could spur an renovation in regulation. One key question is if demerit can be linked to MMA ’ s own handbrake practice, or to the lone mastermind who operated the string, or to a regulative code that gives rail operators besides a lot abate, experts said. MMA Chairman Ed Burkhardt told Reuters the engineer failed to comply with canadian regulations. “ If it had been complied with, we wouldn ’ thyroxine have had a runaway coach, ” he said. Burkhardt said he could not be certain how many handbrakes were set but the mastermind told him that 11 had been applied before he left the train on Friday night for a sleep bankrupt. At least three freelancer railroad diligence experts contacted by Reuters said they would have opted to apply at least 20 brakes and deoxyadenosine monophosphate many as 30 on a exchangeable grave educate parked at a rate of 1.2 percentage, which is the gradient of the track where the fugitive train had been parked. By 1 ante meridiem on Saturday, the unman train was speeding toward Lac-Megantic, Quebec, around 7 miles downhill from its parking spot in the municipality of Nantes. The company and investigators have not released the engineer ’ randomness identity. A generator companion with the situation and canadian media said his name is Tom Harding. Reuters has not been able to reach Harding for gloss. A phone number listed for him in Farnham, Quebec, was disconnected and a Reuters reporter who visited his address found no one home plate. Burkhardt told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that the engineer was “ under police control ” but “ not in jail. ” Later in the day, patrol said the engineer is not under catch and declined to further explain his status or list him .

TESTING THE BRAKES

The handbrake mechanism on a car normally consists of a big wheel in the cabin, connected to chains and levers that set brake pads underneath the discipline. canadian regulations require an engineer to test the trail ’ south handbrakes after setting them. The engineer is required to attempt to pull the train back and away, typically using the engine, to ensure the brakes can hold it in place. Burkhardt, a decades-long vilify industry veteran, said he did not know if the engineer performed the test. Asked whether a potential failure to set or test enough handbrakes could increase MMA ’ second liability for the crash, Burkhardt said, “ We ’ ra acknowledging liability. We ’ rhenium not standing around saying we don ’ t have responsibility. ” He said the company had insurance but declined to give details. To be sure, unanticipated circumstances left MMA ’ s trail at the mercy of its handbrakes. The train ’ s pneumatic brakes, which run on compress air travel and are the first gear line of defense, had been shut down by firefighters when they switched off an engine that had caught fire after the engineer left. It is not so far clear what caused the fire, but the shutting down of the locomotive prompted the pneumatic brake system to gradually leak tune and lose its track-gripping world power.

Establishing handbrake safety guidelines may become more significant as a growing number of trains crisscross North America to bring vegetable oil from shale-drilling regions to boastfully refineries. The MMA coach was carrying a cargo of light, fresh oil from North Dakota ’ s Bakken area, which ships out three-quarters of its crude by rail, to an Irving oil refinery in New Brunswick. “ I decidedly think there should be a protocol … that addresses where and how you ’ re going to park a train that ’ s loaded with hazardous material, ” said John Bentley, an accident reconstruction adept in Perryville, Arkansas. At present, canadian and U.S. regulations do not specify the number of handbrakes since factors like path grade, cargo weight unit and contents, weather and space between railcars can all have a bear on how many brakes are needed to ensure safety. Depending on where a train is parked, more or fewer handbrakes may be required, canadian Transportation Safety Board investigator Ed Belkaloul said, adding that dragoon companies are given some discretion to develop their own guard standard .

HOW MANY HAND BRAKES ARE ENOUGH?

MMA has said its handbrake policy was adopted from guard guidelines set by a a lot larger railroad, Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. Canadian Pacific declined gloss. Earlier this week, Burkhardt told Reuters he believed the MMA engineer had complied with party rules and standard rail diligence practices in securing the educate. On Wednesday, he told reporters the worker likely failed to set adequate handbrakes, violated company policy, and was now suspended without give. He did not detail what caused his retool views. An on-line copy of Canadian Pacific ’ s General Operating Instructions said at least nine handbrakes must be set on a parked coach of 70 to 79 cars, but extra brakes “ may be required ” if the string is parked on a grade. equal railroad canadian National provides more specific instructions, recommending that crews activate the handbrakes on 40 percentage of all railcars when a train is idled on a 1-1.4 percentage class, according to a Transportation Safety Board report in April. If MMA ’ s engineer had followed the 40 percentage guidance, he would have had to activate about 29 brakes. The Transportation Safety Board report followed a January 2012 incident in which a section of 13 laden ember cars crashed into a stationary train near Hanlon, Alberta, at 56 miles per hour ( 90 km per hour ), badly injuring one crew member. canadian National was faulted for providing inadequate guidance to its crews for how to test the braking systems, particularly on slopes. “ There ’ s constantly some come of opinion. It ’ s a balancing act between what will hold the train and what is operationally feasible, ” said Rob Mangels, aged mechanical consociate at R.L. Banks & Associates and a locomotive engineer and trainer. Mangels said handbraking 20 to 30 cars on a 72-car vegetable oil train would be distinctive. A longtime Canada-based locomotive engineer and brakeman, Doug Finnson, said he might activate handbrakes on 25 railcars before leaving a train of that length on a flat surface, or more brakes if it was on a decay. In the United States, freight aim operators broadly apply handbrakes on every fourthly car, another expert said. early experts questioned whether MMA ’ s mastermind took enough time to secure the train. According to investigators, the gearing pulled onto the tracks at Nantes around 11 post meridiem local fourth dimension. MMA said that the engineer had secured the gearing by 11:25 p.m. “ That seems like a short period of time to secure the prepare, ” Colorado-based railway adviser Robert Stout said, adding that to activate a bracken, a worker must walk between the railcars, climb up a ladder and turn the brake rack, sometimes up to forty times.

MMA ’ randomness Burkhardt said it may be impossible to verify how many handbrakes were set before the calamity, due to across-the-board damage to the fulminate cars. Police say 200 investigators are sifting through the char wreckage. Reporting by Joshua Schneyer and Cezary Podkul in New York ; Additional report by Solarina Ho in Toronto ; Richard Valdmanis in Lac-Megantic, Quebec ; Jonathan Lee in New York and P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago ; Editing by Tiffany Wu and Lisa Shumaker Our Standards : The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles .

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Category : Car Brakes