The first train through Lake Megantic pulled by MMA 8541 - Date/Videographer unknown.
18 December 2013
Rail Traffic Resumes in Lake Megantic
Lake Megantic Quebec - Normal rail traffic officially resumed through the town of Lake Megantic on Wednesday, a little more than five months after a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded, killing 47 people in the downtown area.
But a group of citizens says trains no longer have a place in the town, and they're calling on authorities to work on a detour of the track that was promised.
"They're saying that this is temporary until the detour track can be built, but we're worried it will become permanent," said Marilaine Savard, spokesperson for the group "Citizens Committee of the Lake Megantic Region".
"Several million dollars were spent to rehabilitate the track. If they really had good faith, they would have invested in a detour right away."
While Savard believes the track is safe, the psychological effect of seeing trains roll through the town will affect residents, she said.
"I'd say the majority of people don't even want to hear the chugging of the train," Savard said.
"We're hoping there will be a recognition of that psychological distress that citizens are suffering."
The first train actually rolled through on Tuesday night, but it was there to test that signalling at level crossings was working properly, and to take rust off the train tracks.
The first cargo train, operated by Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA), was scheduled for Wednesday morning, to go to the melamine manufacturer Tafisa Canada, in the town's industrial park.
The train was to then head west to pass through the town's core before heading to Sherbrooke.
MMA, which operated the train that derailed in July, has sought bankruptcy protection.
It's expected the railway will be purchased by another operator next month.
Trains passing through the town now have a strict set of rules they must follow:
- The transport of dangerous materials is forbidden;
- A manifest of the cargo must be provided at least four hours before the train's arrival;
- A conductor and an engineer must be on board each train;
- Train speeds can't exceed 10 miles per hour (16 kilometres per hour);
- Trains must not park anywhere within a four-kilometre radius of the town, except for an abandoned quarry, on a separate track.
Despite the security measures, Savard is concerned that if there is no detour built, trains will continue to roll through the town for years, and eventually the new security measures will be forgotten.
"It's obvious that at one point, there will be oil transported on the train," she said.
"In two years, three years, or four years, will all these measures be relaxed? That's our worry."