Calgary Railway Bridge Buckles Amid Recovery From Flood

A Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. bridge in central Calgary buckled today, threatening to drop train cars loaded with petroleum products into the Bow River, days after flooding inundated the city.

The bridge is supporting a 102-car train and six of the units derailed, said Canadian Pacific spokesman Ed Greenberg, in an e-mailed statement. Five cars carrying petroleum diluent, used to dilute oil sands bitumen, are being unloaded, he said.

The bridge was inspected for damage June 22, Greenberg said, during the worst flooding in decades in Calgary, Canada’s oil and gas capital. The floods may have caused as much as C$5 billion worth of damage to the city, according to preliminary estimates by BMO Capital Markets.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he has “a lot of questions” for Canadian Pacific. Municipalities in Canada don’t have authority over railway bridges, complicating rescue and recovery efforts, the mayor said today during a press briefing.

“Once this crisis is over I’ll be looking for a lot of answers from a lot of people,” Nenshi said. “How is it that we don’t have regulatory authority over this, but it’s my guys risking their lives down there to fix it?”

The company is conducting an “exhaustive investigation” into the cause of the failure, Greenberg said. “CP’s focus is to continue to work closely with the City of Calgary Fire Department to ensure all the necessary precautionary steps are taken to safely remove the rail cars from the bridge.”

Bridge Instability

Efforts to remove product from the cars have been hampered by the bridge’s instability, said Jeff Johnston, a project manager with Cordy Oilfield Services Inc., who spoke by phone from where his vacuum trucks were stationed, ready to suck diluent from the cars. A crew from Tervita Corp. was working to build up the river bank with rocks to stabilize the bridge, Johnston said.

“It’s actually collapsed so the cars are actually in a ’V’ pattern heading toward the river,” Johnston said. “Everybody’s just scared of any kind of movement or disturbing of the bridge, to have it collapse all the way.”

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