Regulator extends operating licence of railway at heart of Quebec train disaster

OTTAWA – The Canada Transportation Agency has extended the operating licence of the insolvent railway involved in last July’s deadly explosion in Lac-Megantic, Que., until June 1.

The regulator says it is satisfied Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway has adequate third party liability insurance coverage, including self-insurance, to operate until June.

The railway asked for the extension earlier this month, saying it was necessary to allow for continued service to the rail customers pending the completion of the sale and transfer to a new owner.

In January, bankruptcy judges in Quebec and Maine approved the sale of the insolvent railway to Railroad Acquisition Holdings LLC, an affiliate of New York-based Fortress Investment Group, for US$14.25 million.

The company has been granted a couple of extensions since July’s explosion and fire that killed 47 people and destroyed part of the tiny Quebec community’s downtown.

The explosion was caused when a train hauling tanker cars loaded with oil broke loose and barrelled about 10 kilometres down a hill into the town.

Police and federal transport safety officials are conducting investigations into the crash.

The CTA has said that the rail company has seen a significant drop in total traffic since the disaster.