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Mayor concerned about CN derailments

Mayor concerned about CN derailmentsAnother CN freight train derailed earlier this month (pictured) in Plaster Rock, N.B. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tom Bateman

EDMUNDSTON, N.B. - The mayor of Edmundston, N.B., is questioning CN's maintenance budget after a train carrying butane derailed in his northern New Brunswick community.

Cyrille Simard says with two derailments in less than three weeks in the province, he'd like to know if CN (TSX:CNR) is spending enough to keep the tracks safe.

"Hopefully it's just a coincidence, but we have to ask, 'Do we maintain our railway in Eastern Canada in the same way we do in Central and Western Canada?'" Simard said Monday, one day after the derailment.

"Is there an issue there we're not aware of?"

Five freight cars including one carrying liquid butane left the tracks Sunday night in the Edmundston community of Sainte-Basile. There was no leak nor fire and nobody was injured, CN and city officials said.

About 25 residents who live within a 250-metre radius of the derailment were placed on alert, though none of them were told to leave their homes.

Special work crews were at the scene of the derailment Monday draining the butane and CN was planning to flare off remaining fuels on Tuesday, the company said.

Jim Feeny, a spokesman for CN, said his company has yet to determine the cause of the derailment in Edmundston.

On Jan. 7, a CN freight train hauling crude oil and liquefied petroleum gas derailed near Plaster Rock, sparking a fire that burned for several days. In all, 19 cars and a locomotive left the tracks.

Feeny said CN believes that derailment, about 100 kilometres southeast of Edmundston, was linked to a problem with a train car's wheel and not a track issue.

He said the company recognizes the mayor's concerns. He said the railway spent almost $28 million on its track between Riviere-du-Loup, Que., and Moncton, N.B., in the last three years.

"The line is maintained, it's inspected and necessary work is being done," he said. "That being said, we had a derailment. ... We will be working to determine the cause and draw whatever lessons are necessary."

He said the railway also plans to meet with first responders in Edmundston on Feb. 4 to discuss safety procedures.

—By Michael Tutton in Halifax.

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