Poor breaks blamed in CN Rail death 

Almost three years after two CN employees were killed in a derailment in Lillooet canyon the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) at last released its report on the incident.

According to the TSB the accident was the result of an inadequate breaking system, confirming what many other workers suggested at the time of the derailment. A conductor and trainman died while trying to slow the engine on a steep rail grade, while a locomotive engineer jumped to safety and sustained serious but non life-threatening injuries.

It was CN's 11 derailment since taking over the B.C. Rail lines in 2003, including a spill of caustic soda into the Cheakamus River that killed off a large number of fish. The TSB mandated that CN trains could not exceed 80 cars unless they had a second engine to distribute power and braking through the cars. The train at Lillooet had four engines up front and two in the middle to comply.

The report says the brakes on the Lillooet train were inadequate, pointing out that B.C. Rail always used engines with "dynamic braking" on lines with mountainous terrain. As well, the TSB also said that CN did not do a risk assessment before removing engines that had dynamic braking from the Lillooet run. Employees voiced concerns about the brakes before those incidents, but those were never passed on to management.

Since then CN has put engines with the dynamic braking systems back on the southbound route into Lillooet. However, the TSB also recommended that CN conduct a risk management assessment, as well as to review brake shoe standards on "rolling stock" cars.

"To make the rail system safer, we are calling for modern brake shoe standards for today's heavier cars," said TSB chair Wendy Tadros. 

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