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Railroad Seeks Financing For 2-Person Freight Crews

Portland, Maine (ap) — A bankrupt railroad whose runaway train sparked a fire and explosion that killed 47 people in Quebec is seeking financing to use two-person train crews in the U.S., a company trustee said.

The move to beef up the crews comes after criticism of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway’s decision to keep one-person crews in the U.S., said Portland lawyer Robert J. Keach.

Canadian transportation officials already issued a directive banning solo-operator crews for trains hauling dangerous materials following the July 6 derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, 10 miles from the Maine border.

The company has blamed the train’s operator for failing to set enough hand brakes.

Keach said the move to use two-person crews is not an admission that one-person crews are unsafe, noting that the Federal Railroad Association does not require two-person crews in the U.S.

Last month, FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo said he was shocked that the railway would continue to use solo crews in the U.S. Keach said he would follow the FRA’s advice on the issue.

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud has introduced a bill that would mandate a minimum crew of two for freight trains in the aftermath of the runaway train derailment in Canada.

Keach said the goal is to sell the railway by the end of the year. The company says the sale is necessary to repay creditors and victims following the Quebec disaster.