Sorry about the hiatus. It’s been a tough couple of weeks around here.
In the news: the Clean Train Coalition keeps chugging along. They’ve joined a climate justice campaign in advance of the “Climate Summit of the Americas“, an international conference hosted by the Government of Ontario.
The CTC is also counting the pounds of greenhouse gases released by the UPX. In the first three weeks of operation, they say it has released about a million kilograms of carbon dioxide.
Yesterday I took a look at Weston Station and two things are evident;
1. The station still needs a lot of work before it is complete.
2. It’s going to look very nice – a lot nicer than the old one.
Judge for yourself in these images.
Weston Station – a work in progress.
A northbound train heads towards the Weston Tunnel.
The southbound platform.
Workers finish off planter beds.
The ramps leading to the platform.
The pedestrian bridge deck.
A view between the rail and pedestrian bridges over Lawrence Avenue.
Lots of expensive floral displays.
The pedestrian bridge over Lawrence Avenue is not open yet.
Lots of work yet to do.
A Union Station bound train leaves the station.
The UP Express begins its service on June 6. Metrolinx has decided to celebrate the opening the following week by offering a barbecue and free rides at the Weston and Bloor Stations between 11:00 a.m and 3:00 p.m.
Metrolinx says that this is their way of saying ‘thank-you’ to the communities that have had to put up with the ‘dust, noise and inconveniences’ during construction over the past few years.
Your official invite is here.
Frances Nunziata and John Tory‚ along with 16 councillors, have written a letter to the federal Minister of Transportation, Lisa Raitt asking for improved rail safety in Toronto.
The Lac Megantic disaster—while the most terrible accident—was not an isolated one. Since that crash, there have been many other crashes involving dangerous tanker cars all around the continent; they are the result of an enormous increase in the number of shipments of oil from the extraction industry.
In the letter, Toronto councillors and the mayor ask for
- Better safety standards
- Better communication from rail companies (which have not shared information about the dangerous goods they are carrying with communities)
- An accelerated retirement of dangerous DOT111 tanker cars
- An examination of the reduced speeds and rerouting
CN, whose trains run through Weston, was far less safe in 2014 than in previous years, according to the Globe and Mail. CN recently had two fiery train crashes in northern Ontario, and, like other railways, uses dangerous tanker cars to carry oil.
Canadian National Railway’s safety record deteriorated sharply in 2014, reversing years of improvements, as accidents in Canada blamed on poor track conditions hit their highest level in more than five years, a Reuters analysis has found.
Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) said on Tuesday that track failure may have played a role in CN’s three recent Ontario accidents, which have fueled calls for tougher regulation. The agency said oil unit trains, made up entirely of tank cars, could make tracks more susceptible to failure.
Transport Canada has proposed modifications to tanker cars that would make them safer by 2025.
Weston is, among other things, a railway town. That is why we should worry more than most about railway politics and economics—and about crashes that happen far from us.
Last weekend, a train derailed near Gogoma, Ontario. Nobody was killed or hurt. But imagine for a minute what a crash like this would do in Weston.
Fiery train crashes and explosions are now quite common, and a direct, predictable result of government failures. Because of the enormous growth in natural gas and tar sands production, train cars are now transporting vastly more oil than they did.
- A pipeline may have helped, but the feds blew that by blowing off Kyoto.
- Regulation might have helped, but the Conservatives are allergic to government oversight—leaving rail companies to be, to a large degree, self-‘regulating’.
- Community pushback might help, but communities can only guess about what is passing through them, because the feds made it impossible to konw.
And, as always, it gets worse.
This is not the first crash in Gogoma. It’s the second crash in a month. There was another fiery crash in Illinois. And one in West Virginia. That’s four train crashes in a month. All were carrying oil.
And it gets even worse.
The Gogoma train cars were not the DOT-111 cars that lead to the explosion in Lac Mégantic and the deaths of 47. These were improved cars. Nor were these cars carrying Bakken Shale oil; they were carrying tar sands crude. So—and this is small comfort—the crash in Gogoma is a kind-of best-case scenario.