08/20/2013 08:36 EDT | Updated 10/20/2013 05:12 EDT

Train Safety Inspector Positions Cut In B.C. Interior

Firefighters douse blazes after a freight train loaded with oil derailed in Lac-Megantic in Canada's Quebec province on July 6, 2013, sparking explosions that engulfed about 30 buildings in fire. At least 80 people are missing after a driverless oil tanker train derailed and exploded in the small Canadian town of Lac-Megantic, destroying dozens of buildings, a firefighter back from the scene told AFP. AFP PHOTO / François Laplante-Delagrave (Photo credit should read François Laplante-Delagrave/AFP/Getty Images)
Just six weeks after a devastating train derailment and explosion in Quebec, one of Canada's major rail line operators is cutting more than half its safety inspectors in one B.C. Interior city.

Four of seven Canadian Pacific Railway inspectors, or 'Carmen', based in Cranbrook have been given layoff notices, and union official Bob Fitzgerald says that is a major safety concern — especially given what happened in Quebec on July 6.

"The quality of inspections and the frequency have got to decline," he said. "CP would be wise to take heed: what happened there — clearly, it can happen anywhere. They should think about that."

Fitzgerald said the outcome of a derailment in the region could be especially poor considering some of the trains that move through Cranbrook carry highly toxic material to the smelter in Trail.

Canadian Pacific, which is purging up to 6,000 workers in the next few years in an attempt to become profitable, did not want to comment on the Cranbrook layoffs specifically.

A company official did say in an email message that operating safely has been and will always be the company's main priority.

Last week, the province of Quebec added CP to a list of defendants that it says are responsible for paying for the cleanup of the disaster area in Lac-Mégantic, Que., and lawyers representing victims of the disaster named Canadian Pacific in a class-action suit.

Both suits allege CP bears some of the responsibility for the deadly derailment, as it was the main contractor that handed over responsibility for the crude oil tankers to the smaller Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway Ltd., which then operated the tanker train that jumped the tracks in Lac-Mégantic on July 6.

The disaster killed 47 people and prompted a mass evacuation, a criminal investigation, lawsuits, and concerns that the community of 6,000 might have to abandon its downtown core.

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