PORTLAND (AP) — The company that purchased assets of the railroad responsible for a fiery oil train derailment that killed 47 people in Canada says it is seeing growth as it rebuilds the business.
Central Maine and Quebec Railway has nearly doubled its business from June, but it has yet to reach levels before the disaster in Lac Megantic, Quebec, in July 2013, said Ryan Ratledge, chief operating officer.
“We’re seeing strong growth. We’re seeing some large accounts come back. The future is bright,” Ratledge said.
The new railroad already completed $10 million worth of track improvements — mostly in Quebec — that were aimed at improving safety and allowing freight trains that had been slowed to 10 mph in some sections to boost their speeds to 25 mph, he said.
The maintenance work included replacement of more than 32,000 railroad ties and removal and replacement of more than 110,000 feet of rail. More work will be done in the coming summer.
Nate Moulton, director of the rail program for the Maine Department of Transportation, said the maintenance problems addressed by the company had grown over three decades. “There was a lot of deferred maintenance on the railroad, so there was a lot of work to do,” Moulton said.
Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railways went bankrupt after a train transporting crude oil was left unattended by its solo operator and began rolling toward Lac Megantic. More than 60 tankers tumbled off the tracks and several exploded. Much of the downtown was consumed by the flames.
Canada’s Transportation Safety Board said the train’s brakes weren’t properly set.
In Lac Megantic, the focus is on compensating survivors. The environmental cleanup alone could end up costing $200 million to $500 million, based on early estimates.
Central Maine and Quebec Railway, a subsidiary of New York-based Fortress Investment Group, purchased the 481 miles of rail in Maine, Vermont and Quebec.
Last month, it resumed shipments of “dangerous goods” like propane fuel and chemicals but company has agreed not resume crude oil shipments through Lac Megantic before the end of 2015, he said.
The company has been seeking to earn the trust of residents of Lac Megantic through regular meetings and updates on trains carrying dangerous chemicals or fuel. The company also has ended the previous company’s practice of using solo train operators to save money.