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Trans Mountain investigating run-away train and derailed 'man car' inside Burnaby Mountain tunnel

Report to Canada Energy Regulator includes two 'high potential near misses' inside the TMX pipeline tunnel in February
boring tunnel Trans Mountain
This photo shows workers creating a tunnel.

Trans Mountain has declined to answer questions about two “high potential near misses” inside the Burnaby Mountain tunnel project last month.

As part of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, the Crown corporation is in the process of boring a 2.6-kilometre tunnel as deep as 130 metres below the surface through Burnaby Mountain to connect its Burnaby tank farm and the Westridge Marine Terminal.

As of the end of February, the project had gotten to 847 metres.

On Feb. 2, a locomotive was pushing five muck cars, used to carry debris away from the tunnel boring machine, and an un-occupied “man car” inside the tunnel, according to a monthly TMX construction update to the Canada Energy Regulator last week.

As the train approached a low spot in the tunnel, the man car went off the tracks.

“The operator immediately stopped and contacted supervision,” states the report. “No material or personnel were present on the train at the time of the derailment. A derailing plan was created; however, it was not reviewed by all parties.”

The derailed car was lifted and placed back onto the chassis, according to the report. Once it was out of the tunnel, the car was taken out of service for inspection, but no damages were identified.

A couple of weeks later, on Feb. 17, the train was at the tunnel boring machine, filling muck cars with excavated material.

As it moved backwards to fill up the next car, the operator initiated the brakes, but the muck car brakes didn’t engage, according to the report.

“The train continued to go down the inclined section of the tunnel until it rested in the flat section,” the report states.

The locomotive operator stopped and called for the subcontractor to come and investigate.

No personnel were present on the train or in the line of fire and no cars derailed, according to the report.

A high potential near miss is an incident that could have resulted in significant injury or death or significant environment or property damage.

The NOW reached out to Trans Mountain for more information about the incidents.

Instead of providing the information, media relations specialist Allison Penton sent a statement.

“Safety is Trans Mountain’s top priority, and we take every potential safety incident seriously. We are committed to a strong culture of safety above all else and insist that our project contractors and subcontractors are equally committed.”

Penton said both incidents are under investigation and Trans Mountain will “use the information gathered to ensure safe work practices continue.”

Here are the questions Trans Mountain didn't answer:


Could you explain the train configuration for me? Please provide a description of each component named in the report.

What is the purpose of the man car? Why was it unoccupied during this incident?

Would that worker have been hurt if it had been occupied?

The report states: “A derailing plan was created however, it was not reviewed by all parties.”

Explain whether it was not reviewed by all parties before or after the incident. If the answer is before, what was the result of not everyone having review it? What would have been done differently if they had?

Explain what makes this a high potential near miss?

Runaway train

What level of incline was the train on?

How fast did it end up going?

What kind of weight are we talking about?

Has this investigation been completed?

Who is the subcontractor in this case?

What made this a high potential near miss?

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor
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