A Montreal Maine & Atlantic train in front of the railway's Farnham office - Date unknown Marie-France Coallier.
5 September 2013
MMA Expects to Run Two Person Crews on All Trains in Canada and the United States
Portland Maine USA - The railway company at the centre of the Lake Megantic train disaster says it soon expects to be running two-person train crews on all its trains in Canada and the United States, regardless of what materials those trains are carrying.
The company is in compliance with all Canadian and U.S. regulations, which do not require two-person crews on every train, said Robert J. Keach, a Portland, Maine, USA, lawyer who is the Chapter 11 trustee for Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA).
The company filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada and the U.S. in the wake of the Lake Megantic derailment.
The train that derailed and exploded in Lake Megantic was operated by a single crew member.
After the accident, regulators on both sides of the border ordered railway companies to take steps to improve the safety of transporting hazardous goods by rail.
Transport Canada ordered railway companies to ensure they have two-person crews working on trains with one or more cars containing dangerous goods.
While U.S. regulators did not order the use of two-person crews, the U.S. Department of Transportation said it believed rail safety was "enhanced" through the use of multiple crew members.
MMA got into hot water with the Federal Railroad Administration, the U.S. railway regulator, last month for using one-person crews in that country.
"In the aftermath of the MMA derailment I was shocked to see that you changed your operating procedures to use two-person crew trains in Canada, but not in the United States," an FRA administrator told MMA chairman Edward Burkhardt on 21 Aug 2013.
"Because the risk associated with this accident also exists in the United States, it is my expectation that the same safety procedures will apply to your operations here."
Currently, some MMA trains in Canada and the U.S. are operating with a single crew member, Keach told The Gazette Thursday, depending on what those trains are carrying.
Although the company is not required to have two-person crews on all its trains, Keach said he decided that it will.
The company is in negotiations with the FRA and other potential lenders for financing to pay for the extra crew members, he said, adding he hopes to be able to make an announcement about it next week.
"As soon as that financing is committed, I will put two-person crews on all trains north of the border and south of the border," Keach said.
"We are in active communication with the FRA about that request, and at this point it is just a request, because we think it's the right thing to do."
Keach said he has not drawn any conclusions about whether two-person crews are safer than one-person crews.
"I think under these circumstances, on an interim basis while we're trying to sell the company, it's the right thing for the company to do, to err on the side of that safety debate that favours the two-person crews," he said.