Inspectors find 'areas of concern,' close part of MMA track near rail disaster

OTTAWA – An inspection of track owned by the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic rail company at the centre of the Lac-Megantic disaster has found so many deficiencies that one section is effectively closed.

Transport Canada has restricted movement on 19 kilometres of substandard track in Quebec, and cited “a number of areas of concern” elsewhere after inspecting 337 kilometres of line owned by MMA.

It’s just the latest in litany of safety issues that have emerged following the July 6 derailment and explosion of a train carrying 72 tank cars of highly volatile crude oil that killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic.

Transport Canada said it inspected the track over a two-week period in late July and early August and found railway crossings in poor condition, poor signage, track defects, clusters of defective ties, “non-compliant rail joints,” poor ballast along the roadbed and vegetation obscuring the line.

The department issued an order to MMA to have one particularly poor section, which passes by a propane storage facility, inspected by an professional engineer.

“Essentially no traffic shall move on this section of track until such an assessment has been completed and the results communicated (to Transport Canada),” said the report, posted on the department’s web site Thursday.

The report comes one day after the Transportation Safety Board investigating the crash found that the crude oil on the train was as volatile as gasoline and the cargo had not been properly identified for transport by the American supplier in North Dakota.

The horrific crash of the unmanned MMA train, which incinerated the downtown core of Lac-Megantic, has prompted opposition calls for the government to enact stricter inspection and regulation of rail companies.

Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Ltd., based in Maine, filed for bankruptcy protection last month following the Lac-Megantic disaster.

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