Investigators fault Canadian auditors in 2013 oil train explosion

A Canadian watchdog agency faulted government officials for not properly auditing the railway company involved in a major July 2013 oil train explosion in Quebec.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said Tuesday disasters similar to the Lac-Mégantic derailment could happen again if auditors don’t improve their practices, Reuters reported.

The explosion killed 47 and brought new attention to trains carrying massive amounts of crude oil, setting off new government and private-sector efforts to improve the safety of oil trains in both Canada and the United States.

The disaster came as crude shipments have been increasing dramatically, due in part to new oil field activity. Canada has set a timeline to retire older tank cars for crude transport, and the United States has proposed doing the same.

In addition to pushing for more thorough audits of railway companies’ safety management by Transport Canada, the investigators called for more physical means to prevent runaway trains, such as new braking systems and wheel chocks, Reuters said.

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

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt declined to answer most questions of the report, and said her agency would review the findings.