07/23/2013 04:00 EDT | Updated 09/21/2013 05:12 EDT

Lac Megantic Explosion: Gregor Robertson Calls For Train Safety Update

VANCOUVER - Concern that a rail disaster similar to Lac-Megantic, Que., may happen in Vancouver has convinced the city's mayor that local safety measures and protocols need to be assessed.

Gregor Robertson will be asking city staff to investigate the shipment of dangerous goods by rail in Vancouver and provide any recommendations for enhancing safety protocols.

"We want to be sure that we've got best practices in place," he told reporters Tuesday, "and that nothing like the Lac-Megantic nightmare could happen here."

"I'm hopeful we don't have a problem here and that Vancouverites aren't at risk right now," Robertson said. "Our next council meeting isn't 'til September, but I would expect to hear back from staff urgently if there is a major risk identified."

Robertson's concerns about train safety come the same day Transport Canada issued a number of emergency rail directives, including that at least two crew members must work trains that transport dangerous goods.

The immediately effective directives also stipulate that no locomotive attached to one or more loaded tank cars transporting dangerous goods can be left unattended on a main track, and that rail operators have five days to ensure that all unattended locomotives on a main track or sidings be protected from unauthorized entry.

In addition to the directives, a House of Commons committee began analysing rail safety Tuesday in light of the July 6 train disaster in Lac-Megantic. An estimated 47 residents of the small town were killed in an explosion that followed the derailment of a train carrying oil-filled tanker cars.

Robertson said there may only be a tiny amount of oil travelling into Vancouver by train, as the majority of oil-filled rail cars primarily stop in cities like Burnaby and Port Moody and other locations further up the Burrard Inlet and away from the coast.

However, Robertson said he wants to make sure that any hazardous materials — he did not mention any specifically — that are destined for Vancouver travel through the city as safely as possible.

"There's a wide array of materials that are moved through Vancouver to the port, so it's really assessing the levels of risk and ensuring that safeguards are in place," he said.

Robertson, who has been outspoken against oil pipelines, was also asked about whether the Lac-Megantic disaster has altered his opinion about pipeline safety.

"There are serious risks in moving oil by pipeline and by train," he said. "There's obvious need for it ... but we have to be eyes-wide-open to the risks associated with all of that movement and make sure that safety measures are in place, and ask the hard questions about what the alternatives are as well."

Robertson also plans to formally express the city's "deepest sympathies" to the people of Lac-Megantic.

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