The Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) employee in charge of safety and training at the railroad testified that a minimum of nine handbrakes should have been used on the train that destroyed the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in 2013. Michael Horan testified that only seven handbrakes had been set.
What’s more, in a distinct disregard for safety, Horan’s testimony revealed that he was never trained in how to teach safety standards to employees. He also testified that MMA had instituted one-man crews shortly before the Lac-Megantic tragedy.
Click here to read more about Horan’s testimony from CBCNews.
Portland, Maine — A bankruptcy judge on Thursday morning will consider approval of the bankruptcy reorganization plan for the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway.
The railroad was responsible for an oil train derailment in 2013 that killed 48 people, leveled the downtown of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, and became a flashpoint for regulators in the United States and Canada to issue new safety standards for trains carrying flammable fuels.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Peter Cary began hearing motions to confirm the liquidation plan for the railroad at 9 a.m., first dealing with a motion from Canadian Pacific Railway requesting unredacted settlement agreements between the bankruptcy estate and 24 other parties.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today issued a final rule to prevent unattended trains that carry crude, ethanol, poisonous by inhalation (PIH), toxic by inhalation (TIH), and other highly flammable contents from rolling away. Railroad employees who are responsible for securing a train will now be permanently required to communicate with another qualified individual trained on the railroad’s securement requirements to verify that trains and equipment are properly secured.
“Today’s rule is part of the Department of Transportation’s comprehensive effort to bolster the safety of trains transporting crude oil and other highly flammable contents,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Verifying that a train has been properly secured is a common sense solution to prevent accidents.”
The final rule will go into effect 60 days from publication in the Federal Register. Exterior locks on locomotives will also be required by March 1, 2017, and must be utilized when a locomotive has been left unattended.
Today’s rule requirements include:
A qualified and trained railroad employee to properly secure the equipment and verification of the securement with a second trained and qualified employee;
Additional communication, including job briefings among crew members responsible for the train securement;
Properly installed and utilized exterior locks on locomotives;
The setting of sufficient handbrakes;
Removal of the train reverser; and
The proper use of train air brakes.
The rule applies to the following trains left unattended on a mainline, siding, and rail yard:
Trains carrying any poisonous by inhalation (PIH) and toxic by inhalation (TIH) hazardous materials; and
Trains carrying 20 or more cars of other high-hazard flammable materials.
“Where the Federal Railroad Administration can take smart steps to quickly raise the bar on safety, it will, and that is exactly what we are doing today. Requiring that an additional, trained individual double check that the handbrakes have been set on a train will help stop preventable accidents,” said Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg. “While today’s rule came out of a lesson learned from the Lac-Mégantic derailment, FRA will not hesitate to take additional actions to keep the rail system in the United States safe.”
On July 6, 2013, an unattended 74-car freight train carrying Bakken crude oil rolled downhill and derailed in Lac-Mégantic, Canada. Forty-seven people died and many more were injured. While the Canadian government found that there were nearly 20 causes of the accident, a major cause was that the engineer of the train did not properly secure the train.
Since the Lac-Mégantic derailment, DOT has taken more than 30 actions, including regulations, emergency orders, and safety advisories, to prevent train accidents and improve the safety of high-hazard flammable trains.
MONTREAL – The union and lawyers representing two railway employees accused in the Lac-Megantic disaster are urging the Crown to drop the charges in light of recent findings by the Transportation Safety Board.
Engineer Tom Harding, railway traffic controller Richard Labrie and Jean Demaitre, the manager of train operations, each face 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death – one for each victim of last summer’s oil-train derailment in the Quebec town.
The following conversations took place on July 5 and 6, 2013, on the night of the devastating derailment in Lac-Mégantic. They were between railway engineer Tom Harding and company offices in Farnham, Que., and Maine.
The transcripts, which are based on audio recordings of MM&A’s rail-traffic control communications, provide new insight into Mr. Harding’s actions before the derailment, as well as the uncertainty and panic that took hold in the chaotic hours after the crash.
LAC-MEGANTIC, Que. – Transport Canada was slammed Tuesday (Aug. 19) in a long-awaited report into last summer’s train disaster that claimed the lives of 47 people, for not forcing Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway to improve its safety record.
“Each time (Transport Canada inspectors) were saying, ‘OK, we found this, you’ve got to do this,’ but nobody was looking at it from a big-picture point of view to say, ‘Have we got a systemic problem? Have we got a pattern here?’ ” Wendy Tadros, president of the Transportation Safety Board, said in an interview.
The Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO issued the following statement on the train accident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, that happened one year this week:
This week marks the one year anniversary of a tragic rail accident – a runaway train carrying 72 cars of crude ran into Lac-Megantic, Quebec killing 47 people and demolishing an entire town. While millions of carloads and containers traverse the country safely each year, too many accidents have occurred lately both in the freight and passenger sector. While the causes of these accidents vary and many investigations are ongoing, what is known is that more must be done to ensure that rail transportation is as safe and secure as possible for employees and the public.
For starters, too many rail workers, especially those responsible for operating trains and maintaining safety-sensitive equipment, are forced to report to work tired and fatigued. TTD has long called for federal rules to be changed to ensure that employees are given proper notice of when they will need to report to work and predictable schedules so that adequate rest can be secured.
Congress must also step in to stop rail companies from only “counting” certain hours that signal employees work as a way to get around federal rules limiting on-duty time. Let’s just say that there are some rail executives using creative calculating when it comes to adding up “covered work.” The problem is that this isn’t a game, and it is jeopardizing safety.
Congress must also adopt a mandated minimum crew size for freight train operations. Last year’s accident in Lac-Megantic, caused by a train that was operated by a single crew member, is a tragic reminder of the dangers posed by risky one-person rail operations. A freight train is massive – up to 19,000 tons and a mile and a half long – that simply should not be operated by one individual, especially given the myriad operating rules and regulations that must be followed. And while two-person crews are the norm on U.S. freight lines, crew size is often an issue determined by collective bargaining rather than federal mandate. Safety should not be bartered at the negotiating table. And by the way, the public agrees with us on this, with a series of polls showing that up to 9 out of 10 Americans believe #2crewtrains should be a national standard.
Fortunately, some lawmakers are taking steps to address rail safety. Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Jim Himes (D-CT), Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) introduced legislation (H.R. 4576) earlier this year that mandates predictable and defined work and rest schedules and Congressman Michaud (D-ME) introduced a bill (H.R. 3040) requiring a minimum crew size for freight trains. We also applaud the Department of Transportation and its Federal Railroad Administration for moving on a new proposed rule on two-person train crew requirements. Strong federal action is needed because we know from experience that the rail lobby will dismiss and downplay these dangerous operating practices.
In addition, first responders require the necessary tools and training to effectively respond to rail accidents, particularly those involving hazardous materials. Domestic oil production has boomed and the amount of crude oil being shipped by rail has increased 70-fold in the last decade. Despite that fact, many firefighters receive an inadequate level of training that does little more than teach them to call for help in the case of a hazardous materials incident. Congress must direct adequate resources to states and localities for first responder training but also ensure that the level of training is sufficient.
This week’s anniversary of the tragedy in Lac-Megantic is a glaring reminder that it’s not just the workers on these trains that are endangered by unsafe rail industry practices. The neighborhoods and cities through which these trains travel should care just as much. Congress and the Administration must take strong, immediate action to close gaps in rail safety that expose too many to unnecessary risks.