Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi railing after Bonnybrook train bridge collapses over Bow River
Calgary’s mayor had pointed questions Thursday over the inspection of CP Rail bridges in the city as emergency crews worked to right derailed train cars that could leak petroleum products into the Bow River.
Of the six derailed train cars, five contained petroleum-based materials.
The Bonnybrook rail bridge near Ogden Rd. and Deerfoot Tr. partially collapsed early Thursday, forcing officials to evacuate a one kilometre zone around it, severely snarling southeast traffic.
That was reduced to a 300 metre zone later in the day.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi pointed out all city bridges have been checked three times since floods hit Calgary.
“How is it we don’t have regulatory authority (over CP rail), but it’s my guys risking lives down there to fix it?” said the mayor.
CP Rail is under federal jurisdiction and the city has no say on how the bridge and tracks are maintained.
The mayor said it’s not the time to be emotional about the added mess as the city remains in a state of local emergency, but he didn’t hold back, saying CP Rail has been a “constant frustration for every municipality in this country forever.”
He said there needs to be talks about the rules governing the rail system.
“This is a private business, and other private businesses are subject to regulation,” he said. “Once this crisis is over I’ll be looking for a lot of answers from a lot of people.”
Being blunt, Nenshi pointed out there have been a lot of jobs lost at CP and he wondered how many were bridge inspectors.
“These are the questions that we need to understand much, much better as we understand what’s going on in this situation,” he said.
CP Rail CEO Hunter Harrison said the bridge was inspected 18 times since the flood hit but a lack of visibility hampered the process.
“Look, you got formal inspections that you check off a grid that’s required by the regulators,” he said.
“You got many other observations which are technical inspections — people riding by, looking at the rails, looking at the ties, seeing if there has been any movement that would indicate a problem.
“This happened like that. The first part of the train got over it — the lead 75 cars or so got across the bridge and it was clearly a failure on the piers at the bottom of the river.
“We couldn’t have seen anything from an inspection on top unless there was severe movement as a result of the failure down below.”
Harrison said they normally would have put divers in the water but it was too dangerous given the conditions.
“Somebody would have drowned if they had tried to go in there, plus the current was so fast and it’s so murky you couldn’t do an appropriate inspection,” he said.
Harrison also said there have been no bridge inspectors laid off.
The bridge, built in 1912, was reported partially collapsed to city authorities about 3:45 a.m. Thursday.
Bruce Burrell, director of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA), said the city dispatched police, fire and EMS, who blocked a 4 km radius including a stretch of Deerfoot Tr. so crews could work in the area.
Thursday evening, acting fire chief Ken Uzeloc said the situation was on it’s way to being under control with three cars cleared of fuel and rest expected gone by night’s end.
No fuel had leaked into the river and the bridge hadn’t slumped any lower.
“Everything is going according to plan,” Uzeloc said, adding once all cars are cleared, they can be pulled clear.