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The recent derailment of a CP Rail train in mid-town Toronto highlights the urgent need to improve rail safety in Canada.  Fortunately, no one was hurt in the incident and emergency crews moved quickly to contain a small spill of diesel oil.

We may not be so fortunate next time.

Tens of thousands of tank cars containing explosive crude oil, ethanol, chlorine and propane travel on the CP Rail line that passes through mid-town Toronto and other communities.  Now is the time to take steps to protect the lives and properties of people living along the line.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau has declared rail safety to be his top priority. It is time for the good will shown by the Minister and a number of Members of Parliament to be translated into action.

There are a series of steps that could be taken in the short term, such as lowering the speed of trains travelling through densely populated neighbourhoods. As well, the length of trains could be shortened, the phase-out of unsafe, outdated tank cars, currently set for 2025, needs to be acceleratedand a new generation of electronic brakes needs to be mandated. 

Of course, the long-term solution is to relocate the transportation of dangerous goods trains outside of densely populated areas.  This is something that was recommended earlier this year in the review of the Canadian Transportation Act by David Emerson. Ottawa needs to work with the railways, provincial and local governments and transportation agencies to identify bypass options and implement them as soon as possible.

For more information on the issues involved and some possible solutions, please look at railsafetyfirst.com.