OTTAWA (Reuters) - Some of the railway track operated by the firm whose train blew up in a Quebec town, killing 47 people, is in poor condition and does not meet safety standards, said federal Canadian transport inspectors.
A team from Transport Canada examined 210 of the 250 miles of track operated in Quebec by Montreal, Marine & Atlantic, the now bankrupt firm whose fuel tanker train derailed and exploded in the small town of Lac-Megantic on July 6. The inspections occurred from July 20 to 24 and then August 6 to 7.
“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,” said the report, which was posted on Transport Canada’s website.
MMA Chairman Ed Burkhardt was not immediately available for comment, said a spokeswoman.
The Canadian report said problems included non-compliant rail joints, defective rails, defective tie conditions that could allow excessive track movement under load, defective ties near a propane storage facility and vegetation encroaching the track.
One 12.5-mile stretch was in such poor condition that Transport Canada said it had effectively banned any trains from using it until an engineer had assessed the track.
Canadian authorities in August ordered MMA to shut down because it did not have enough insurance. The firm will cease operating on October 1 unless that deadline is extended.
The disaster generated questions about how closely Transport Canada had been watching MMA before the disaster. The report said that from July 2011 to July 2013, inspectors had examined a total of 575 miles of MMA track in Quebec, but it did not say if Transport Canada had taken any action.
The disaster, the worst of its kind in North America in two decades, happened when the train started moving downhill after it had been parked for the night outside Lac-Megantic. Burkhardt said in July he doubted whether the engineer had set enough handbrakes after parking the train.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by James Dalgleish