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Monday, February 16, 2015

A Very Bad Weekend for Canadian Railways

This past weekend saw the windchill in the Toronto area push temperatures to below -40c. In the rail industry, however, tempers were really heating up after a lengthy list of problems.

Starting at Canadian Pacific, the railway's 3,000 engineers and conductors (represented by the Teamsters) walked off the job over unresolved issues surrounding breaks and rest between shifts. CP continues to run limited trains using its minimally-experienced management scab crews. True to its anti-union stance, the Canadian Government is expected to table back-to-work legislation Monday morning, effectively negating any power workers still had.

As a result of the CP strike, about 19,000 commuters in the Montreal area have no ride to work since the Agence M├ętropolitaine de Transport relies on CP crews to run three of its commuter lines. AMT is providing 60 buses to provide an alternative service, but that is less than 10% of what is needed.

Over on Canadian National's tracks, 29 cars of a crude oil train derailed in a very remote part of northern Ontario. Seven of the cars caught fire. Since there is no road access to the site, cleanup will be slow and delays significant.

As a result of the CN derailment, VIA Rail was forced to cancel trains 1 and 2 between Toronto and Winnipeg since the route was blocked.

To top it all off, VIA train 64 broke down near the outskirts of Montreal. In what appears to be a thoroughly botched response, the train sat without head-end-power for over three hours even though VIA's Montreal Maintenance Centre was relatively nearby. An investigation is underway.

All in all, it was probably a good weekend to stay at home.

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