NEWS

Lac-Mégantic rail disaster company can no longer operate in Canada

08/13/2013 11:41 EDT | Updated 10/13/2013 05:12 EDT
The railway at the centre of the rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Que., no longer has authorization to operate in Canada after the Canadian Transportation Agency pulled its certificate of fitness.

The order, issued today, comes after the agency reviewed the company and found Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway doesn’t have enough third-party liability insurance, or the funds to pay for the self-insured portion, both of which are requirements to operate Canada.

"This was not a decision made lightly, as it affects the economies of communities along the railway, employees of MMA and MMAC, as well as the shippers who depend on rail services,” Geoff Hare, chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency, said in a release.

“It would not be prudent, given the risks associated with rail operations, to permit MMA and MMAC to continue to operate without adequate insurance coverage.”

The agency, which acts as an independent regulator, issues certificates of fitness based on a railway's ability to secure enough third-party insurance to operate.

On July 6, an unmanned train operated by MM&A rolled down a hill, derailed and exploded in the centre of the town in Quebec's Eastern Townships.

A total of 47 people were killed in the blasts and the centre of the town was levelled. Recovery and cleanup operations have been underway since.

Several investigations, including one by the Transportation Safety Board and another by Quebec provincial police, are still ongoing.

Last week, faced with mounting lawsuits threatened and filed in Canada and the U.S., as well as a mounting cleanup bill, MM&A applied for and received bankruptcy protection from its creditors.

- Lac-Mégantic rail disaster company MM&A files for bankruptcy

In light of that court decision, the government and the municipality handed over responsibility for the environmental cleanup of the devastated downtown core to a construction management company, Pomerleau Ltd.

MM&A had been supervising that work up until last week.

MM&A chair Ed Burkhardt could not be reached for comment.

A member of Burkhardt’s staff said this morning that he wasn’t taking calls and was unaware of the development with the railway's certificate of fitness.

In light of the Lac-Megantic disaster and the financial state MM&A found itself in in its wake, the Canadian Transportation Agency is launching a consultation and review of insurance coverage requirements for all railways operating under federal regulations.

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