The Lac-Mégantic crude tanker disaster. Image courtesy of Sûreté du Québec/Wikimedia Commons.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB), an independent federal agency, said Tuesday  the Canadian government did not properly audit the railroad company responsible for the oil tanker disaster that killed 47 people in 2013.

The accident happened on the night of July 6, 2013, after an engineer parked his tankers loaded with Bakken crude on a mainline near Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. The brake system failed and the runaway train went downhill and derailed and exploded.

About 30 buildings in Lac-Mégantic’s downtown area were either damaged or destroyed in the accident.

Transport Canada, the federal transportation ministry, is responsible for auditing railroad and train companies.

The TSB issued its final report on the incident Monday and said Transport Canada failed to stop safety violations at at Quebec-based Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway Ltd (MMA), the company that operated the tankers.

MMA is now insolvent.

TSB concluded that MMA had a weak safety culture, did not train its employees properly, failed to provide adequate maintenance and did not have a functioning safety management system.

TSB said Transport Canada did not audit companies often or thoroughly enough.

“Transport Canada knew about some of the problems at MMA, but the follow-up wasn’t always there. Instead, the focus was on making sure railway companies had a safety management system, not how they were using it,” TSB Chair Wendy Tadros told Reuters.

TSB said more thorough audits of safety management systems need to be performed and more physical defenses against runaway trains, such as wheel chocks or modern braking technology, need to become standard.


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