MPs on the House of Commons transport committee voted Tuesday at a special summer meeting to put off a study on rail safety until some of the findings of the investigation into the deadly Lac-Mégantic crash are known.
The committee rejected a bid by the NDP to kick off an immediate study.
Chow, NDP transport critic and vice-chair of the committee, had officially requested the meeting last week with the required support of three other MPs. Chair Larry Miller, a Conservative, had five days to set up a meeting according to procedural rules.
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Earlier in the day, Transport Canada announced an emergency directive to rail companies with six new measures they are required to follow. The department said the measures build on the safety advisories received last week by the Transportation Safety Board. The rules require any train carrying dangerous goods to have at least two qualified people on board to operate it and no locomotive attached to tank cars with dangerous goods can be left unattended.
Transport Canada officials said during a briefing that the Lac-Mégantic disaster has brought some industry practices to light that are of concern and they thought it would be "prudent" to issue the directive now. The measures will be in place until December.
The motion being proposed by the NDP is to undertake a study on rail safety that would examine some of the following issues:
- Transportation Safety Board recommendations that haven't fully been implemented by Transport Canada.
- The audit findings from a 2011 report on the transportation of dangerous goods.
- The use of two-person crews and he call for clear rules on hand brakes.
- Phasing out and replacing unsafe tanker cars.
The NDP is proposing the committee hear from TSB officials, Transport Canada officials, railway companies, and Transport Minister Lisa Raitt throughout August and September and prepare a final report by October.
The Conservatives hadn't given any signals that they would agree to the NDP's request. Miller said on Friday he thinks a study on rail safety would be "premature" given that the investigation into the Lac-Mégantic crash is ongoing.
The NDP argues that the study wouldn't focus specifically on what happened in the small Quebec town but rather on rail safety generally and on why past recommendations to improve it have been ignored.
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