News release

Blocked water drainage system led to April 2013 embankment collapse and derailment of a VIA Rail train near Togo, Saskatchewan

Winnipeg, Manitoba, 11 June 2014 – In its investigation report (R13W0124) released today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) determined that inadequate water drainage led to the collapse of an embankment, causing the derailment of a VIA Rail (VIA) train near Togo, Saskatchewan.

On 28 April 2013, a westbound VIA train was passing over a raised portion of CN track when the crew observed a section of track where some of the roadbed ballast was missing. The train emergency brakes were applied, but the train could not stop in time. As the train passed over this location, the embankment further collapsed causing the 2 locomotives, a baggage car and the first passenger car to derail upright. The fuel tanks on each VIA locomotive came into contact with the rail causing the tanks to rupture. The diesel fuel-fed fire that ensued damaged both locomotives. Although the locomotives had been recently rebuilt, they were not equipped with newer puncture resistant fuel tanks. VIA personnel and all passengers on board were safely evacuated. There were no injuries.

A track inspection conducted about 4 hours before the arrival of the train did not note any defects at this location. Subsequently, it was determined that a culvert at the derailment location had been blocked by an ice plug for some time. The plugged culvert, in combination with a sudden, rapid melting of surface snow in the area, led to water saturation and destabilization of the embankment. The embankment began to fail prior to the passage of the train. The investigation determined that the track inspectors responsible for this location had not received any significant training in identifying indicators of potential ground hazards. Without such training, track inspectors may not detect unstable ground conditions in a timely manner, increasing the risk of a derailment.

Following the occurrence, CN produced a video on spring readiness inspections. Two supporting documents were produced, providing additional information specific to signs of potential track embankment instability. The material was provided to all track inspectors and supervisors as a refresher.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-994-8053