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Thursday, October 10, 2013    

Maine DOT report: Rail safety practices in the state are 'adequate'


A rail system safety report the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) recently submitted to Gov. Paul LePage finds that existing rail safety practices in the state are "adequate."

The report complies with LePage's executive order issued July 9 following the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway Ltd.'s (MMA) major derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. The order required MaineDOT to review available Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) rail safety reports; analyze reports on MMA's inspections; use any available information on the cause of the July 6 Lac-Mégantic accident to mitigate any safety concerns; and continue cooperating with the FRA.

A similar tragedy should not occur in Maine if the state's five private railroad operators follow their own safety practices and those of the FRA, MaineDOT officials state in the report.

"The tragedy in Lac-Mégantic has caused everyone to reflect on how our transportation industry can provide the level of railroad safety that the public deserves and expects, while at the same time allowing the efficient movement of goods needed to support our economy here in Maine and across North America," said MaineDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt in a press release. "We have received good cooperation from the freight-rail operators in the state that helped facilitate the completion of this report for Governor LePage."

From January through July, the FRA performed 1,021 safety observations on Maine railroads across five disciplines. Since the derailment, an additional 581 observations have been conducted by FRA and state inspectors, according to MaineDOT.

All concerns and defects observed in inspections were documented and forwarded to the railroad being inspected, and to FRA staff for correction and follow up. During the process, some defects were identified that required attention by railroads, but none of the defects warranted the shutdown of any rail lines in the state, MaineDOT officials said.

"When that horrible event in Lac-Mégantic happened, we increased the focus on the safety of the rail system in Maine. The tragedy forced us to ask tough questions‚" said LePage. "While the results of this report are encouraging, it is paramount that operators of all modes of transportation put safety first for themselves and for all Mainers."

MaineDOT plans to closely monitor the accident investigation conducted by Transport Canada and continue working with the FRA to ensure that there are timely safety inspections of Maine's rail infrastructure throughout the state, he said.

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