Privatization's the Name of the Game for Accident-Prone Train Company Behind Lac-Mégantic Oil Disaster

Scene from the runaway train disaster that hit the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic. (Photo: The Canadian Press)As the head of the company behind the runaway oil train that derailed and caused a fireball explosion  in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec faced furious residents on Wednesday, he continued to defend the shoddy safety record of his company, whose goal is all about privatization.

Edward Burkhardt, chairman of Maine, Montreal and Atlantic Railways (MM&A) and President and CEO of Rail World, Inc., its parent company, headed to the tragedy-stricken town where he hoped he was “not going to get shot,” though he faced heckling by residents and dodged a handful of reporters.

One resident, Richard Lefebvre, carried a sign with a simple message likely felt throughout the town: “No more killer train.”

Burkhardt has been deflecting blame for the disaster, denying he had first blamed local firefighters and later saying it was the fault of an employee for not setting the brakes.

Burkhardt didn’t mention MM&A’s safety track record.A sign on the tracks in Lac Megantic reads: You, the train of hell, don’t come back here. You are not welcome. –the population(Photo: Twitter via @ArmstrongGN)

The Canadian Press, citing information from the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration, reports that the MM&A has had 8 derailments and four collisions since 2010, and it has an average of 34.7 accidents per million miles traveled, well above the national average of 2.3 accidents per million miles. The Wall Street Journal adds that the company had “23 accidents, injuries or reportable mishaps from 2010 to 2012.”

As for the parent company itself Rail World Inc., its goals are laid bare on its own website:

A railway management, consulting and investment corporation specializing in privatizations and restructurings. Its purpose is to promote rail industry privatization by bringing together government bodies wishing to sell their stakes with investment capital and management skills.

The Chicago Tribune adds information on how Burkhardt’s rail privatization push extends beyond North America:

Besides working with railroads, Burkhardt is New Zealand’s honorary consul for the Midwest, a position he picked up after helping to privatize railways on the Pacific Ocean island.

Rail World Inc. also states that Burkhardt led the privatization of Estonian railways.

The official death toll from the disaster is at 15 with 60 still missing.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Republished with permission from: Common Dreams