Feds further revise train regulations, speed limit, for dangerous goods on Canadian railways

Lower speed limits enforced on rail traffic after two fiery crashes near Guernsey, Sask. have changed under a more detailed order issued by federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau late Friday. 

Friday’s updated Ministerial Order increases the lowest speed limit from 32 km/h to about 40 km/h, and adds new stipulations on when the limits apply and to which trains.

It separates the limits into two categories: the first is for “higher risk key trains” carrying a single dangerous goods commodity moving to the same point of destination, or trains that include any combination of 80 or more tank cars containing dangerous goods.

The second category applies to “key trains,” which are defined as those “carrying 20 or more cars containing dangerous goods, or a train carrying one or more cars of toxic inhalation gas.”

The original order was announced on Feb. 6, the day of the latest of two oil tanker crashes east and west of the small town of Guernsey, Sask. Both spilled more than 1 million litres of crude oil. 

The Feb. 6 order, issued on the basis of safety, dramatically reduced speed limits for trains carrying 20 or more cars with dangerous goods.

It required trains travelling through metropolitan areas to limit their speed to a maximum of 32 km/h, and 40 km/h everywhere else.

Before the order, trains were required to limit their speed to 64km/h in metropolitan areas, and 80 km/h everywhere else. 

Updated speed limits

The new speed limits are as follows: 

“Higher risk key trains”

  • Metro areas: 48 km/h or 40 km/h in non-signalled areas
  • Non-metro in areas where there are track signals: 80 km/h
  • Non-metro in areas where there are no track signals: 40 km/h

“Key trains”

  • Metro areas: 56 km/h
  • Non-metro in areas where there are track signals: 80 km/h
  • Non-metro in areas where there are no track signals: 64 km/h

The updated order was announced late Feb. 16 and came into effect immediately.

The order will remain in place until April 1, 2020. Transport Canada has also committed to introducing permanent measures to improve safety. 

It said these new measures will target track infrastructure maintenance and renewal, winter operations, safety practices of the railway companies. 

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is still investigating both derailments, which occurred on Dec. 9 and Feb. 6 near the small hamlet of Guernsey, which is about 100 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon. 

Nobody was injured in either of the derailments, which both involved Canadian Pacific Railway trains. 

Federal Transportation Minister Marc Garneau ordered trains carrying dangerous goods to reduce speeds in populated areas after a CP Rail train crashed outside Guernsey, Sask. 2:01

Guernsey residents were evacuated overnight due to air quality concerns from the blaze that erupted from the tanks after the crash. 

Puncture-resistant cars involved in Feb. crash

The train that crashed on Feb. 6 was using new, industry-standard tank cars designed to be more puncture-resistant than their predecessors. 


The train that derailed in December used a mix of jacketed TC-117R cars and CPC-1232 cars, which are not quite the same as the new TC-117J tanks involved in the February derailment. 

Transport Canada has confirmed it inspected the track near Guernsey three times in the last year, using a track inspection vehicle.  

‘Minor non-compliances’ found, fixed before first crash

It found “minor non-compliances” on May 7 and Aug. 27 of 2019, which it said were repaired by CP Rail within 30 days. It has not disclosed the nature of those non-compliance instances.

After the Guernsey-area derailment on Dec. 9, 2019, Transport Canada returned to the track for a third time on Jan. 29 of this year. It found “no instances of non-compliance.”

Read more at CBC.ca