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Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announces new railway safety measures during a news conference on Wednesday, April 23, 2014 in Ottawa. The federal government will issue detailed requirements specifying the number of hand brakes that must be set on unattended trains in its latest response to last year’s devastating accident in Lac-Mégantic, The Globe and Mail has learned.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The federal government will issue detailed requirements specifying the number of hand brakes that must be set on unattended trains in its latest response to last year's devastating accident in Lac-Mégantic, The Globe and Mail has learned.

Ottawa will also conduct a review of shortline railways' employee training plans, after the Transportation Safety Board uncovered glaring gaps in the way Montreal, Maine & Atlantic staff were trained and tested, and take additional steps to deal with crude oil testing and classification. Transport Minister Lisa Raitt will announce the changes in Ottawa on Wednesday.

The changes come more than a year after a runaway oil train derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Que., killing 47 people and levelling dozens of downtown buildings. The train was carrying 72 tank cars of crude oil from the Bakken region in North Dakota, which has since been identified as typically more volatile and prone to exploding than traditional crude.

Wednesday's announcement represents the latest in a series of regulatory shifts brought on by the worst rail disaster in modern Canadian history.

A final report on the accident issued by the safety board in August found that multiple factors contributed to the crash, including a failure to apply enough hand brakes, a weak safety culture at the railway and poor federal oversight. The report also included two new recommendations calling for additional measures to prevent runaway trains and better government oversight of railway companies' safety programs.

Sources familiar with the federal government's plans said the changes to be announced Wednesday are a response to the latest TSB report and will include detailed, prescriptive requirements for how many hand brakes must be set on a train, measures to better review railway-training programs and additional steps to address crude-oil testing and classification. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the government had not yet issued an official response to the latest safety board recommendations.

The train that derailed in Lac-Mégantic was left unattended on a downward slope and its brakes were not properly set, the safety board investigation found. The government is expected to issue an emergency directive laying out how many brakes must be applied depending on the slope and the weight of the train, a source said. Current federal rules call for a "sufficient" number of hand brakes to be applied but do not give a specific number.

The emergency directive will explicitly require staff to disengage all of the train's air brakes before conducting a "push-pull" test, designed to ensure the train won't roll away unintentionally, according to the source. Depending on the location where the train is parked, the directive is also expected to require railways to use one or more physical defences, such as wheel chocks, to help prevent it from moving.

In addition, Ms. Raitt will initiate a new process for reviewing shortline railways' employee training plans, sources said. That change responds to a safety advisory letter issued by the safety board in August, which raised doubts about the quality of training and testing procedures at smaller railways, including MM&A.

The government is also expected to address the classification of crude oil, sources said. A second safety board letter, also issued in August, said new federal requirements issued after the Lac-Mégantic disaster failed to explicitly deal with the "variability" of crude oil products, including the fact that different products may be blended together before they are shipped.

Ottawa is also considering additional measures to improve Transport Canada's monitoring of safety management systems, sources said, but it was not immediately clear whether changes to the system would be announced by Ms. Raitt on Wednesday. As part of deregulation of the railway sector, railways were tasked with designing many safety and operating procedures, with approval by Transport Canada. In its final report in August, the safety board accused Transport Canada of failing to properly oversee the safety regime it designed.

Earlier this year, Transport Canada said it would require emergency response assistance plans for crude oil shipments, tougher standards for DOT-111 tank cars often used to haul crude oil, and risk assessments for key railway routes used to carry dangerous goods. All three changes responded to TSB recommendations that were issued in the months after the Lac-Mégantic crash and before the final TSB report was completed.

With a report from Eric Atkins in Toronto