According to a July 12, 2014 Toronto Star article by Jessica MacDiarmid, the City of Windsor has taken a stand on principle that they won’t sign an agreement with the rail companies that prohibits the City from determining how data on dangerous goods will be used by the City.
The rail companies say the data needs to be protected for security and commercial reasons. The commercial reasons is understandable as allowing easy access to the goods carried may be of interest to competitors such as trucking companies etc. But the security rationale is a little weak.
However, a terrorist group would not have to wait for a City to release info on dangerous goods passing through their city. All they would have to do is visit a “not very secure” freight yard or sit by a rail line and read off the “safety” signage on every freight or tanker car passing and they’ll have the info. So I guess a trucking company who cared enough could do the same. So not sure this demand for a strict confidentiality agreement by the rail companies has much validity other than it may arouse concern by the public about their own safety. Who would not want that to happen!
In many emergency situations, the first responders on the scene are in fact the public, before the police, the fire and other first responders. For people living near rail lines and yards, having the knowledge that specific dangerous materials may be in play, may encourage residents to stay better tuned to the rail activities and better prepared and more likely to evacuate quickly if an accident occurs.
The final point I would make is can we trust the rail companies to place the safety of the community before profits. I hope we can, but recent events of terrible rail accidents make me worry that that may not always be the case. Municipalities won’t do a perfect job, but there will always be a city employee or municipal politician that will be prepared to speak up when the risk to the community is high. At least, I hope they will.