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News release

Associated links (R19M0018)

Investigation into 2019 derailment expresses concern about lack of rail inspection requirements at crossings

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, 30 September 2020 — Today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released its investigation report (R19M0018) into the April 2019 derailment of a VIA Rail Canada Inc. (VIA Rail) train near Coal Branch, New Brunswick. In the report, the TSB expressed concern that the lack of requirements to assess rail web corrosion at railway crossings could lead to in-service rail failures.

On 04 April 2019, at approximately 1235 Atlantic Daylight Time, a VIA Rail passenger train was travelling at approximately 60 mph eastward on the Canadian National Railway Company (CN) Newcastle Subdivision near Coal Branch, New Brunswick. The train had been travelling over the Lakeville Road crossing when the last two passenger cars derailed upright at mile 15.27. The train came to a stop with the head end at Mile 14.2. Three passengers were assessed on site for minor injuries. No dangerous goods were involved.

The investigation found that the derailment occurred as the train travelled over the Lakeville Road crossing and the rail broke beneath the train. The web of the north rail (the narrower section between the head and foot of a rail) had thinned due to corrosion to a point where it could no longer support normal train forces and it progressively fractured under the train.

Over time, the environmental conditions at the crossing, and the effects of winter road salt in particular, caused the rail web to corrode at an accelerated rate. The corrosion had not been identified by the visual or ultrasonic track inspections, because the web of the rail was hidden by the crossing surface. If rail web thinning due to corrosion is not assessed at appropriate intervals, particularly at crossings that are more susceptible to the effects of saline environments, rail with compromised web sections can go undetected, increasing the risk of an in-service failure.

Railway crossing structures inherently hold moisture and road debris, creating an environment where rail can be more susceptible to corrosion and subsequent thinning of the rail web. While rail at crossings on higher tonnage subdivisions is regularly replaced due to wear before corrosion affects rail strength, rail at locations such as the Lakeville Road crossing is not required to be replaced as often due to slower wear. Transport Canada’s (TC) Rules Respecting Track Safety, which set track inspection and maintenance requirements, do not specifically require the identification and assessment of rail corrosion, including corrosion of the rail web. Therefore, the Board is concerned that track inspection provisions at crossings do not include a requirement to assess for corrosion of the rail web; consequently, there may be rail web corrosion at other crossings, which could result in in-service rail failures.

See the investigation page for more information.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail 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.

For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-994-8053