A worker signals from the steps of a Montreal Maine & Atlantic locomotive in Farnham - 13 Aug 2013 Justin Tang.
5 December 2013
MMA Tracks in Lake Megantic Have Been Repaired and the Rail Operator Hopes to Restart Service
Lake Megantic Quebec - The Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) hopes to restart rail service to businesses in Lake Megantic, possibly as early as next week, the company's bankruptcy trustee said Thursday.
Robert Keach said MMA tracks in Lake Megantic have been repaired, restoring an east-west connection on the company's rail line.
"The physical and technical requirements for service to be restored have been completed," said Keach, a Portland, Maine, lawyer who was appointed the company's trustee in August.
The tracks are being tested and inspected, he said.
Discussions about resuming railway service are underway with provincial and federal transportation authorities and the town of Lake Megantic, he said.
Service would be first restored to businesses in the area, Keach said.
Whether or when to resume other operations on the line will be up to whoever buys the bankrupt railway, he said.
"We are very sensitive to the fact that this needs to be done in the right way," Keach told The Gazette.
A court-supervised auction will likely be held in mid-January for the sale of the company, which filed for bankruptcy protection after the accident.
Keach said MMA could be sold in its entirety, or its Canadian and American operations sold separately.
The eventual sale of the company would have to be approved by courts in Canada and the United States, he said.
While MMA stated in its bankruptcy filing in August that it had assets of between $50 million and $100 million for its U.S. operations and $18.9 million for its Canadian operations, Keach said that the opening bids at the auction could be much lower.
He said the assets listed in the auction "vastly overstates" the value of MMA in the wake of the Lake Megantic disaster.
As for compensation for victims of the accident, Keach said that "very complicated" process is ongoing.
Lawsuits have been filed in the United States and a class-action lawsuit filed in Canada, and MMA is not the only defendant, other companies have also been named.
While MMA has continued operations on both sides of the border, Keach said any decisions about whether the railway will resume carrying crude oil will be up to its new owner.
He said that he doesn't expect MMA trains to transport any crude oil before the company is sold.
"There is no legal restriction on carrying crude, but there is no demand for it right now," he said.
The state of crude-by-rail shipments is "in flux" in Canada and the U.S., he said, not just because of the Lake Megantic derailment.
Last month, an oil train derailed and exploded in Alabama.
In October, 13 cars derailed from a 130-car Canadian National train carrying crude oil and liquefied petroleum gas.