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Rail News: Safety

Maine transportation commissioner asks five freight railroads to share parked train practices


Following an executive order issued by Maine Gov. Paul LePage on July 9 to review freight-rail transportation safety in the state, Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt has asked five freight railroads operating in the state to review and submit best practices for the securement of parked trains.

The state actions are in response to the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway's (MMA) deadly derailment that occurred July 6 in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. Bernhardt made his request in letters sent to MMA, the Eastern Maine Railway-Northern Maine Railway, Maine Eastern Railroad, Pan Am Railways and St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad.

While acknowledging that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is the primary regulator of rail safety in the United States, Bernhardt seeks to establish a voluntary, proactive effort to establish "reasonable and common-sense practices that address the risk of runaway freight trains," his letter states.

"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," Bernhardt wrote. "Although no one should jump to conclusions regarding exact causes of the derailment, the very existence of a high-speed, runaway freight train carrying volatile materials indicates that certain railroad safety practices can be established, improved, or communicated."

He asked the five freight railroads to submit existing or proposed policies or practices that relate to securing parked trains — such as parking locations, setting hand brakes, monitoring trains, timing crew changes and ensuring security — to the Maine DOT by today.

"We want to continue our productive partnership with the rail industry in Maine, while ensuring that safety is the top priority of all of us, whether we work in public service or private industry," Bernhardt wrote.

The Maine DOT also is working with the FRA to review all available safety reports related to railroads in order to prepare a formal report for the governor.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/31/2013