OTTAWA, Ont.-- Claude Mongeau, president and chief executive officer of CN said Canadian railways have a solid record of improving their overall safety performance and remain committed to achieving further safety gains.
Mongeau, speaking to The Canadian Chamber of Commerce's International Trade Day, said: "The devastating rail accident in Lac-Mégantic, Que., last summer remains a sobering reminder that safety must be an absolute priority to prevent accidents from harming communities and the environment.
"Rail safety is understandably under intense scrutiny as a result of the Lac-Mégantic accident. But as we engage in a review of what the rail industry can do to further improve safety, we should not lose track of the industry's strong safety record and the significant improvement trends achieved in recent years. The fact is that railways' mainline accident rate per million train miles declined by more than 40 per cent between 2001 and 2012 as a result of sizable investments in rail infrastructure, improved safety processes and a continuing focus on employee training and safety awareness.
"Another fact to keep in mind is that railways move hazardous materials with a high level of safety. A full 99.997 per cent of rail movements of dangerous goods - many of which are essential to the North American economy and communities across the continent -- arrive at their destination without a release caused by an accident."
CN and the rail industry are responding proactively to the Lac-Mégantic accident by taking a comprehensive view on ways to achieve further safety improvements, noted Mongeau. Rail industry partners are also taking steps to ensure safe loading and unloading procedures, properly identify dangerous goods, and look at ways to improve tank car safety, he said.
"CN already works closely with communities by helping them prepare for and to respond to a possible dangerous goods transportation incident. But we are doing more. We recently launched a comprehensive outreach program along our network to inform emergency responders and civic officials about the types of commodities that are moving through their communities and the relevance of those commodities to local economies. Our goal is to be transparent and underscore our commitment to provide emergency training and support communities in the event of a rail accident."
Mongeau said regulators can also play a lead role in determining the future course of rail safety. "The rail industry is working closely with all regulators. As we move forward in our review, I believe a fact-based, balanced and consultative approach to any proposed regulatory changes will be vital to make sure we make sustainable progress.