As the cleanup continues in devastated Lac-Mégantic, Que., the railway at the centre of the disaster remains in operation, running on an “as required” basis rather than on a normal schedule.
The regional railway Montreal Maine & Atlantic continues to service stations along its route linking Montreal to Maine, although with lower volumes and with its mainline still severed at Lac-Mégantic.
“We are currently serving all stations in Canada and the U.S. with the exception of Lac-Mégantic itself,” the railway’s chairman, Edward Burkhardt, said in an e-mail.
The company also confirmed Tuesday that it is no longer transporting crude oil.
Mr. Burkhardt said that the railway has stopped shipping carloads of oil, “other than perhaps a few straggler cars” still on the network that were held in transit by the July 6 derailment and explosion of an MM&A train carrying crude oil in Lac-Mégantic. An estimated 47 people were killed.
As questions mount on whether the company’s insurance can cover the increasing cleanup costs and lawsuits in the wake of the rail disaster, MM&A is currently running a bifurcated network.
Commodities and goods from wood and pulp to propane to plastic are still being delivered, say insiders, along the line east and west of the Lac-Mégantic. Not every station along the network has need for regular service, but the railway continues to service those that do, Mr. Burkhardt said.
Some stations, particularly along a stretch between Sherbrooke and Lac-Mégantic experiencing mainline disruptions, “don’t have any regular business, so of course we won’t operate there [if] there is no reason to do so,” he said.
As the voice of the company since July 6, Mr. Burkhardt has been saying in recent days that he hopes to see the two halves of the rail network rejoined, possibly by re-routing along an undamaged track around the toxic disaster area at the centre of the Quebec town.
The chairman indicated to the media that the company is looking into its options, including the possibility that it could declare bankruptcy, while transportation officials in Maine have begun creating contingency plans if MM&A stops operating altogether. Other railways, such as competitor Pan American, may be called to haul freight if MM&A no longer can.
And so, MM&A is trying to stay in operation enough to continue shipping and remain a working railway, while under the weight of its unpaid, post-disaster costs and its rail network cut in two at Lac-Mégantic.