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More safety auditors, more brakes on idle trains among new rail requirements

By Giuseppe Valiante, National Bureau

First responders fight burning trains after a train derailment and explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec early July 6, 2013 in this file picture provided by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. (REUTERS/Transportation Safety Board of Canada/Files)

First responders fight burning trains after a train derailment and explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec early July 6, 2013 in this file picture provided by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. (REUTERS/Transportation Safety Board of Canada/Files)

OTTAWA -- Transport Canada says it will hire more auditors to review internal safety protocols at rail companies and will increase the number of handbrakes to apply on idle trains in response to the July 2013 derailment disaster in Lac-Megantic, Que.

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced four new safety measures Wednesday, which follow the Transportation Safety Board's final report on the tragedy at Lac-Megantic, where 47 people died after a crude-filled runaway train derailed and exploded downtown.

Raitt said rail companies will be required to set a new minimum number of brakes on idle trains, which will depend on the weight of the train and the grade of the slope on which the train is parked.

She said the additional 10 auditors will be sufficient to ensure rail companies are operating safely in the country. The new hires will be independent from the 105 cross-country inspectors currently employed by her department.

The minister gave no timeline for when Transport Canada will hire the new auditors.

The NDP accused Raitt of "deregulating safety," because auditors won't be creating and running safety protocols but only reviewing the "auto-evaluations" of rail companies.

Raitt said her department has enough money and resources to implement her four-point plan, which also includes more training requirements for rail companies.

Rail companies will have to provide her department with employee training plans by mid-November, she said.

Raitt said the government will also conduct further research into crude oil transportation "to ensure dangerous goods are properly classified, tested and verified."

There was no mention of third-party insurance requirements. The now-bankrupt company that owned the runaway train that exploded in Lac-Megantic didn't have enough insurance to pay the cleanup bill, leaving Canadian taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Raitt said she's still in talks with rail companies about minimum insurance requirements.

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