CN anxious to quell safety concerns in wake of derailment: experts
Oct 20, 2013 / 2:52 pm
TORONTO - CN Rail's (TSX:CNR) strong and swift response to the derailment of a fuel-laden train in Alberta shows how anxious the company is to quell safety concerns as more dangerous goods travel by rail, experts said Sunday.
The railway company dispatched its top brass, led by Chief Operating Officer Jim Vena, to handle the crisis after 13 cars carrying crude oil and liquefied petroleum gas came off the tracks and caught fire early Saturday west of Edmonton.
Within less than 24 hours, the company had publicly apologized for the disruption, while stressing the vast majority of its cargo arrives safely without incident.
"They have their COO out there, they've apologized, they're keeping everybody informed â€” that's all really good stuff," said Michael Davis, managing director of the Vancouver consulting firm Reputations.
"The reason is they're terrified they're going to pop up... above the radar and all of a sudden they're going to start getting all this public pressure on the amount of oil products and petroleum products that are being shipped by rail," he said Sunday.
CN's efforts may not be enough to counteract mounting safety concerns over hauling dangerous goods by rail, however, Davis said, pointing to last summer disaster in Quebec involving another rail company.
"They have popped up onto the public radar because of Lac-Megantic and then the other derailments over the last little while... and I think they're going to run into the same kind of ferocious opposition as pipelines are getting," he said.
Saturday's disaster was the company's third derailment involving hazardous goods in recent weeks. No one was hurt, but several cars leaked gas and burst into a giant fireball.
The incident came amid reports that CN is looking into shipping Alberta bitumen to Prince Rupert, B.C. in quantities matching the controversial North Gateway pipeline.
The company has denied the reports but said it would consider any such project as it comes up.
There has also been a heated debate over shipping oil by rail since a Montreal, Maine and Atlantic train careened into the small Quebec town of Lac-Megantic in July, levelling much of the community and claiming an estimated 47 lives.
The way the rail company's parent company handled the Quebec disaster was widely criticized.
Ed Burkhardt, the president of Chicago-based Rail World, didn't arrive in the Quebec community until four days after the disaster occurred. His apology to residents was greeted with jeers and insults. Many also raised eyebrows because in the hours before he arrived he cracked some jokes about the angry response he was likely to receive.
In Gainsford, where Saturday's train derailment occurred, Vena made a public apology to the roughly 100 residents who were forced from their homes, expressing regret for the inconvenience the incident caused.
CN Rail public affairs and media relations officials were both on the scene and working the phones trying to present the rail line's safety record in the best possible light.
The contrast between the two railway companies' responses is staggering, said Kenneth Wong, a marketing expert at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont.
"In Lac-Megantic, there was no indication of contrition and certainly no sense of compassion that was demonstrated despite the fact that it was a massive disaster," he said.
"The CN derailments haven't been nearly of that magnitude... and yet we see a business here that is really pulling out all the stops to defend its brand," he added.
The company nonetheless faces an uphill battle, Davis said.
Though CN pointed out that more than 99 per cent of its shipments arrive without accidental release, statistics can't trump shocking photos of the flame-engulfed train cars, he said.
"They're competing against a very visceral visual," he said.
Read more Business News
|QHR Technologies Inc||1.19||+0.08|
|Anavex Life Sciences||0.38||+0.04|
|Copper Mountain Mining||1.55||0.00|
I saw your comment while reading your business article on Castanet regarding Harvey’s Hamburgers being the “Best Tasting Hamburgers". It is true, Harvey’s usually wins that awa...
Opportunities to Be Aware of This Year As the 2013 year is coming to an end, individuals should be mindful of year-end tax planning opportunities that will need to be implemented prior to December 31s...
When was the last time you thought about your mortgage? Most people take out a mortgage with their bank for five years and then forget about it. When you took out that mortgage did anyone discuss ot...
- Kroger 3rd-quarter profit matches Wall Street expectations; sticks to its outlook for the year
- Government's 1st measure of creative economy finds arts, culture add $500 billion to GDP
- Transcontinental buys 74 Sun Media community papers in Quebec for $75M
- Canada's exporting sector expects to improve sales over next six months
- Sun Media sells 74 community papers
- Capital Power, Enmax to jointly develop new gas-fired plant near Edmonton
- Canadian Press NewsAlert: Tiff Macklem to step down from Bank of Canada
- US economy expands at 3.6 per cent rate in Q3 but business stockpiles drive half of the growth
- US jobless claims tumble 23,000 to 298,000, sign that companies are laying off fewer workers
- CIBC plans to open a branch at Pearson airport to draw in travellers, newcomers
- Transcontinental buying 74 Sun Media community papers in Quebec for $75 million
- RBC president and CEO Gordon Nixon to retire in Aug. 2014