Railway companies and the federal government need to do more to make the Terrasse-Vaudreuil railway crossing safer, the town’s mayor said on Friday.
“You can see the reality we’re living in Terrasse-Vaudreuil,” mayor Manon Trudel said at the Terrasse-Vaudreuil train station, almost shouting to be heard over the noise of a passing train.
About 120 trains travel through the town every day, she said – CN, CP, Via Rail and commuter trains run by the Agence métropolitaine de transport.
“The cargo trains may be carrying petroleum products, chemical products that endanger our municipality and its citizens,” Trudel said at a press conference organized by the NDP to promote a bill that would require railways to disclose more information about dangerous cargo.
“Although we have put in place several security measures, our citizens are particularly concerned after the tragedy in Lac-Mégantic,” she said.
The town has yearly meetings with railway carriers CN and CP, and has a general idea of what kind of cargo is travelling through the town. But local first responders need to know exactly what a specific train is carrying, she said.
The Canadian Railway Association expects that up to 140,000 cars loaded with crude oil will move along Canadian lines this year – in 2009, there were just 500.
Trudel said she supported the recently introduced NDP bill that would require railway companies to tell municipal authorities exactly what cargo is travelling through their communities.
“Unfortunately, railway safety was always left to the side by Conservative and Liberal governments, and under them the quantities of dangerous goods travelling by rail have increased,” said Jamie Nicholls, NDP MP for Vaudreuil-Soulanges.
The safety of the crossing itself is also a concern, Trudel said.
“We strongly support any and all initiatives that will limit the length of all the trains, regulate the safety of the equipment and facilitate the construction of an overpass or an underpass at dangerous crossings, such as the one at Terrasse-Vaudreuil,” Trudel said.
The crossing is the 8th most dangerous level crossing out of 300 in Quebec, according to a recent Transport Canada study.
There have been several recent accidents at the crossing. In 2010, a school bus broke down in the area between the east- and west-bound train tracks.
In 2007, an AMT train moving through the crossing hit an empty tractor-trailer, and in 2001 another train hit a car with two passengers. There were no serious injuries in that accident, but a 46-year-old woman was killed in 1999 when she was hit by a train while crossing the tracks.
Trudel also noted the devastating 1966 crash at a level crossing in Dorion, where 19 people – mostly high-school students – were killed when a freight train collided with a school bus.