An inspected oil tanker rests in the town of Lake Megantic - on 21 Nov 2013 Graham Hughes.
16 May 2014
Owner of Railroad in Lake Megantic Crash Plans to Ship Oil After Track Fixes
Portland Maine USA - The company purchasing the assets of a railroad responsible for a fiery oil train derailment that claimed 47 lives in Quebec plans to resume oil shipments after track safety improvements are made, the firm's top executive said Friday.
John Giles, president and CEO of Central Maine & Quebec Railway (CMQR), said he hopes to have an agreement with Lake Megantic officials within 10 days that would allow the railroad to ship non-hazardous goods, restoring the vital link between the railroad's operations to the east and west of the community.
The company plans to spend $10 million on rail improvements in Canada over the next two years with a goal of resuming oil shipments in 18 months, he said.
"In the interest of safety, and I think being sensitive toward a social contract with Lake Megantic, we have chosen not to handle crude oil and dangerous goods through the city until we've got the railroad infrastructure improved, and made more reliable," he told The Associated Press.
The oil industry is relying heavily on trains to transport oil in part because of oil booms in North Dakota's Bakken region and Alberta's oil sands.
Mayor Colette Roy Laroche previously told the new operator she wanted the railroad to be re-routed around the downtown.
But Giles said the company can transport that crude safely, and he intends to convince the people of Lake Megantic.
"I want to get the railroad in position that by January 2016 that I can at least begin to compete for potential crude business moving east-west," Giles said.
In an email to The Canadian Press, a spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office said, "Any plan the company has should take into account the tragedy the people of Lake Megantic have gone through and should be done in collaboration with the administration of the city."
A spokesman for Lake Megantic said Roy Laroche would have no comment.
New York-based Fortress Investment Group was the winning bidder for the assets of Hermon, Maine-based MMA, which declared bankruptcy after the disaster.
The new railroad, CMQR, closed on the sale of U.S. assets on Thursday and it is expected to close of the Canadian assets in a couple of weeks.
Giles made his comments Friday in a telephone interview from Bangor, where his company had called former MMA workers for a two-day meeting to talk about safety and operations.
He said the rail is in tough shape, with speeds reduced to about 15 km-h in many sections in Canada.
He said the goal is to improve the track to safely increase train speeds to 40-km-h.
He also said he has no plans to operate trains with a single crew member.
He said he intends to move slowly, working with Lake Megantic leaders, because he understands the community's concerns.
He said he hopes to convince the people of Lake Megantic that the rail is safe enough for shipments of so-called "dangerous goods" by this fall.
He said he wouldn't press for crude oil shipments until later.
"The railway is important to the community, people, jobs, and commerce. We believe, and we've proven, that we can handle every type of commodity safely and efficiently," he said.
Editor's Note: Article abridged, repetitive accident data removed.