Rail Incidents; Rail Accidents;

This will be a quick post to highlight a few points on how data is reported.

Last week the Globe & Mail published the article Canadian rail accidents increased in 2018, which stated how there was a “7% increase in the number of derailments, deaths and other safety lapses on Canada’s railways in 2018“. Sounds pretty bad at first glance.

Selective Statistics” are nothing new to me, so I tracked down the data to see if there was more to this story. Data was pulled directly from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada website via a direct connection into Power BI. The resulting report is shown below.


The first page shows the total number of Accidents and Incidents for each year from 2004. There is difference between the two, with Accidents being the more serious. From what I observe there appears to be an increasing trend over the past three years, but the direction is moderately declining since 2004.

On the second page we have separated out the Accidents and Incidents. We can see how Accidents have increased sharply since 2016, reversing the downward trend since 2004. Incidents seem to be going in the other direction, increasing since 2004. It is not unreasonable to attribute the increase in Accidents due to increased traffic as more crude found it way to rail. But Accidents and Incidents are usually associated with “stuff” and can be replaced. Of more importance are human injuries and we look at that next.

On the third page of the report we have plotted Fatalities and Serious Injuries by Year. Fortunately Fatalities have been decreasing since 2004 and have dropped in 2018. Serious Fatalities on the other hand have been moderately flat since 2004 but have increased sharply in the past three years. This begs the question as to the reasons for the increase.

Page 4 identifies the reasons for Fatalities. No surprise the largest causes are Trespassers and Crossings. If you expand the report you can hover over the bars of the graph to see the cause for the various Fatalities.

Finally on page 5 we have identified the reasons for the increase in Serious Injuries. Again Trespassing and Crossings are the largest reasons but Employees and Crew are responsible for an increasing number over the past few years.

The next step here would be further investigation into the increase in Accidents causing Fatalities and Serious Injuries. The public data hits a bit of a roadblock here, but this would be the next logical step.

I will let you draw your own conclusions. Personally I am skeptical when a small window of data is cited to prove a point. I like to look at the bigger picture to see the long term trajectories. Then we can examine recent data to see if there are significant changes in direction from historical trends.



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