Canadians are angry and stunned that the runaway train of Lac-Mégantic was staffed by one engineer only – and Ottawa approved it. The Quebec town was devastated by the train derailment in Lac-Mégantic.
Senior Transport Canada official acknowledge that Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway is only one of the two companies allowed to operate with only one employee on a train, along with Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway.
There was only one engineer for a train full of crude oil from North Dakota. After the train had passed Toronto, the engineer got tired and when his shift ended, he decided to sleep in a hotel close by. The investigation suggests that he didn’t set the hand brakes properly and left the train. Sometime early Saturday, the train started moving and rolled into Lac-Mégantic before exploding. The village suffered tremendous damage when the cars, with crude oil, derailed and blew up.
The Montreal Gazette reported that Canada´s federal government is cutting funding for Transport Canada by almost 30 percent. The two major rail companies in Canada, CP and CN, carried more than 30, 000 carloads of crude oil across North America last year, and Bloomberg, the site for financial news, said that they were planning on doubling the amount this year.
Former Canadian Safety Council president Émile Therien, commenting on safety inspections, said “to make our industries more efficient, we let companies do their own thing – more and more of it. I think Transport Canada, to a great degree, got out of business of regulations.”
NDP energy critic Peter Julian said, “safety supports have been eroded by the Conservative government.” “It is dangerous and irresponsible with a self-managed system. The government needs to restore the financing it has cut.”
MMA chairman Edward Burkhardt said that all safety precautions were complied with when the train was in Nantes.
Meanwhile, officials in charge of the investigation examined the design of the widely used tanker rail cars. The car DOT-111, according with the investigation, ruptures more often in derailments than other models. In the past, the rail industry opposed rules proposed by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.
NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman said, in a 2012 letter , “During a number of accident investigations over a period of years, the NTSB has noted that DOT-111 tank cars have a high incidence of tank failures during accidents.” The railroad MMA has had more accidents than the national average of commercial railroads operating in the U.S. From 2003 through 2012. MMA had an average rate of 38.81 accidents and incidents per million track miles traveled; more than double the national average. The Wall Street Journal explained that MMA has had accidents involving hazardous materials seven times since 2000.
MMA has been under routine audits and inspections, as any other rail company. In the last year, this included checks on 511 cars, 37 crossings , 20 locomotives and 514 miles of track belonging to the rail firm.
The train that derailed in the Quebecois province had only one engineer approved by Ottawa and after that became public, Transport Canada immediately responded that it was “very unusual” to leave the train unattended during the night. Moreover, Transport Canada officials assured that they examined the 73 cars just hours before the incident.
By: Oskar Guzman.
Special Correspondent Mexico and Canada.