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CP Rail charged after train allegedly ordered parked without brakes near Revelstoke

Transport Canada investigators inspect the rail line at Greeley in September 2015. - Alex Cooper, Revelstoke Review file photo
Transport Canada investigators inspect the rail line at Greeley in September 2015.
— image credit: Alex Cooper, Revelstoke Review file photo

CP Rail and two individuals were charged in connection with an incident where a train was allegedly ordered to be parked without the brakes properly applied near Revelstoke.

The company, along with former Mountain Division superintendent Mark Jackson, and Tim McLelland were charged with two counts of contravening an emergency directive made by the federal Minister of Transport.

They are scheduled to appear in Revelstoke court on Wednesay, Feb. 1.

The charges are in connection with an incident that took place on the night of Feb. 15, 2015, when CP Rail engineers and conductors were about to go on strike.

A search warrant from May 2015 alleges the accused violated the Railway Safety Act by ordering that 57 railway cars, some of which were carrying dangerous goods, be left unattended without the hand brakes properly applied on the tracks near Greeley, 10 kilometres east and uphill of Revelstoke.

The warrant alleges the conductor of the train told rail traffic control they didn't have time to apply the brakes, but that Jackson responded with an order to leave the train without the brakes applied. The train was later moved without incident.

The conductor of the train notified the union of the incident, who in turn informed Transport Canada, who launched an investigation.

Photo: Mark Jackson, the former superintendent of CP Rail's Mountain Division, is one of two individuals facing charges. ~ File photo

Transport Canada investigators first searched CP Rail headquarters in Calgary in May 2015 to obtain recordings from the night in question. They conducted a second search in December 2015 to obtain employee time sheets to find out who was working in the rail traffic control centre that night.

They also conducted an investigation in Revelstoke.

The CBC broke the story of the first search in June 2015. Charges were laid late in 2016.

CP Rail said it could not comment on the incident because the matter was before the court. Transport Canada provided the following statement:

"Railway companies are responsible for the safety of their rail line infrastructure, railway equipment and operations. This includes ongoing inspection, testing and maintenance programs in accordance with regulatory requirements, as well as any particular operating and environmental conditions.

"Transport Canada does not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action, should an issue of non-compliance be identified. The department has a variety of enforcement tools for non-compliance with rules, regulations and Emergency Directives made under the Railway Safety Act (RSA) ranging from administrative monetary penalties (fines) to prosecution."

The incident raised the spectre of a repeat of the Lac Megantic incident, when a train left unattended rolled out of control into the heart of a small Quebec town and exploded, killing 47 people on July 6, 2013.

Following Lac Megantic, Transport Canada issued an emergency directive that required all rail companies to ensure handbrakes were properly applied on any trains left unattended for more than one hour.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Jackson was the superintendent of the Revelstoke-based Mountain Division from September 2013 to March 2015, when he was transferred to the Kootenay Division, which is based in Cranbrook. He was fired by CP Rail a year ago and is now suing the company.

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