Sections of MM&A rail track are ‘substandard’: Transport Canada

Watch: Federal transport investigators say MM&A’s rail line was an accident waiting to happen. Global National’s Mike Lecouteur has the details.

TORONTO  – Sections of railway track operated by Montreal, Marine & Atlantic are in “defective,” “substandard” condition and do not meet safety regulations, according to a report from Transport Canada.

One section was in such bad condition Transport Canada closed it to traffic pending further assessment, the the report says.

MM&A is the company at the centre of the July 6 crash that killed 47 people when one its trains carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

While at the scene, Transport Canada inspectors were sent to check on another MM&A train they allege was parked unsafely just a few kilometres away, a Global News report revealed. Concerns around this and other alleged infractions prompted Transport Canada to seek a warrant to search MM&A’s head offices.

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Following the Lac-Megantic explosion, federal investigators inspected close to 340 kilometres of track using a track assessment vehicle on six sections of the rail line, located between Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Lac-Mégantic.

According to the report, published late Thursday afternoon, multiple areas raised alarm bells.

“Several locations were found where the track ties were noted as marginal or substandard. In addition, several locations were observed to be a safety concern or in non-compliance,” the report reads.

Inspectors found problems that included non-compliant rail joints, defective rails and defective ties near a propane storage facility.

Transport Canada also said that several railway crossings were in poor condition and sections of the track could not be inspected due to “excessive vegetation.”

About 20 kilometres of track near the Stanbridge Subdivision were in such bad shape, Transport Canada restricted its use such that “essentially no traffic shall move on this section of track until … an assessment has been completed and the results communicated to TC.”

In other cases, Transport Canada requested “feedback” from MM&A on how they planned to fix the problems. MM&A responded to some of these, the report says, and the responses are being reviewed.

MM&A could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

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Transport Canada’s claims of substandard tracks follow a report by the Transportation Safety Board that found the oil that caught fire in the deadly train derailment was mislabeled

The board found that oil was classified as a Class 3 flammable liquid the same classification as crude oil , but was  in fact a more volatile Class 2 liquid like gasoline.

MM&A is in bankruptcy proceedings in both Canada and the United States, and is in a dispute with one of its insurers over what damage from the Lac Megantic explosion is covered.

In August,  the federal government, which initially ordered the railroad to cease operations, allowed the rail company to continue operating on third-party liability insurance until Oct.1, 2013.