PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — 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 and Quebec Railway, said he hopes to have an agreement with officials in Lac Megantic, Quebec, 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 summer construction periods before resuming oil shipments in 18 months, he said.
“In the interest of safety, and I think being sensitive toward a social contract with Lac 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 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.
“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.
Giles’ company closed on the sale of U.S. assets of the bankrupt Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway on Thursday. The firm is expected to close of the Canadian assets in a couple of weeks.
Much of downtown Lac Megantic was incinerated after a runaway oil train derailed last July. Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche previously told the new operator that she wanted the railroad to be re-routed around the downtown.