Lac-Megantic residents want rail line rerouted

A woman walks on the railway in downtown Lac-Megantic, June 21, 2014.

Credits: REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger


OTTAWA - The new incarnation of the bankrupt railway at the centre of last summer's tragedy at Lac-Megantic, Que., recently received the right to operate in Quebec, but the small town's residents don't care, city spokesman Louis Longchamps said.

What residents really care about is rerouting the tracks away from downtown, Longchamps said.

The Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA) owned the crude-carrying runaway train that derailed near the downtown core of Lac-Megantic, then exploded and caused the death of 47 residents last July.

Railway Acquisition Holdings, which is owned by New York City-based Fortress Investment Group, bought the assets of MMA in Dec. 2013.

MMA's assets were renamed Central Maine & Quebec Railway and on Wednesday the Canadian

Transportation Agency (CTA) said that the new company has enough insurance to operate in Quebec.

The so-called "Certificate of Fitness" given by the CTA means nothing to the people of Lac-Megantic, Longchamps said, because the old company also had a certificate to operate and part of Lac-Megantic's downtown was destroyed anyway.

"No matter what certificate the company receives, our fears and our demands remain the same," he said.

The train tracks that carve through the town's downtown and reopened for use last December need to be rerouted, he said.

He said a feasibility study is being done to assess the cost of moving the tracks - and which level of government will pay.

Meanwhile, Crown prosecutors are preparing evidence for a criminal court case against bankrupt MMA and three of its former employees. The company and the employees were charged with 47 counts of negligence causing death.

A Quebec judge will soon decide whether or not to grant class action status to a group of Lac-Megantic residents who sued Transport Canada and a slew of companies involved in last summer's disaster.

Calls to the Central Maine & Quebec Railway on Wednesday were not returned.

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