Derailment raises serious questions
The recent train derailment near the village of Gainford, by all accounts was harrowing. When cars containing oil and gas get upended, leak, and catch on fire, there’s little anyone can do to put out the fires - they just have to let them burn. And burn, they did.
According to the media reports, over 100 people in the village - which is to say a significant part of its population - had to be taken from their homes and brought to what’s being called an “evacuation center” in a nearby community.
The destruction and fires were so severe, the arterial highway was shut down, and people trying to drive through the area were diverted down range roads and subsidiary highways. The costs of cleanup and repairs from this disaster are bound to be astronomical. By the time you’re reading this, people will have just started returning to their homes in the area.
This is as good an example as any, of just how badly Alberta’s infrastructure, particularly concerning transportation, needs a facelift. I’ll be blunt - a lot of money and a lot of work are needed, no matter how you look at it.
Both the provincial and federal governments need to open a serious dialogue with CN to figure out how to prevent something like what happened in Gainford from happening again. Those trains and tracks are old - they may be passing inspections but there’s no denying their long years of service. It’s the elephant in the room - eventually we’re going to have to deal with it.
Since moving to Alberta, I have heard of concerns being raised about hospitals, schools, and road conditions, by the provincial opposition. I’ve seen our municipal governments fighting to be heard by our provincial politicians - to the point where they were advised to stop sending letters - asking for something to be done about so many of the crumbling roads in the area, burdened by the constant, overwhelmingly heavy traffic.
Like the asphalt roads in the northeast, the old railroads need some serious work. Where will the money come from for that work, one might ask? Why not the oil and gas companies paying CN to cart the stuff in their trains and on their lines? Last time I checked, big oil companies weren’t short on cash, and if anything it’d be cash well spent.
As much the lifeblood of this province as oil and gas are, they also put an enormous strain on it in many ways. Look at the pipelines and the leak near Cold Lake, and the giant heavy load trucks taking up a lane and then some on their way up to Hwy 63.
The debate over what is the safest procedure to transport oil and gas, the cause of the blaze in Gainford, is raging harder than ever. Between leaking pipelines, cracking wells, and derailing trains, it’s clear that even when the proper checks are in place, things are malfunctioning and breaking.
I don’t know if there need to be tougher standards set up by the federal government regarding how such hazardous materials are transported, more people at work to make sure things are safe and running smoothly, or a complete overhaul of everything until something safer, newer, and more reliable is in place, but if Lac-Mégantic and Gainford are any indication, whatever is in place now just isn’t cutting it anymore.
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