Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ed Burkhardt talks with Railway Age on Lac-Mégantic

Written by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
Ed Burkhardt Ed Burkhardt
Responding to a blog posted on this website by Editor-in-Chief William C. Vantuono, Rail World President and CEO Ed Burkhardt had this to say to Railway Age about the tragic accident at Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, on the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway:

“I don’t think anyone who knows me doubts my commitment to safety. At my insistence, MM&A’s board has a Safety and Compliance Committee (with me as Chairman), and we dissect every incident with a fine-tooth comb. But apparently not fine enough. There was a confluence of factors that will come out in the final investigation report, and lots of questions for the industry to answer. I found myself falling back on ‘industry practice’ to questions like ‘How could you leave a train unattended?’ and ‘How come cab doors aren’t locked?’ We will have plenty of time to think over those problems. And of course our one-person crews will be blamed, as will track conditions, neither of which had any relationship to what occurred. I guess our track is good for 63 mph, because that is how fast the train was travelling at the bottom of the hill.”

• “The tank cars were mostly older types, and apparently the NTSB has had them in its sights for more than a few years. Prepare for a major crackdown.”

• “There were no propane cars involved. The crude blew up on its own. But we have a school of thought that fracking fluids, naptha, and diesel added to make the crude fluid helped develop a vapor that ignited. The safety people are concentrating on analysis of the oil itself, and it will be interesting to see what they find.”

• “MM&A’s train accident rate per million train-miles is an apples to oranges comparison with the Class I’s. We simply don’t have the train-miles, and have lots of operations in yards, branch lines and industry tracks that aren’t in the best shape. Using this measure, the incident rate of a switching and terminal railway with zero train-miles and one small derailment would be infinite. Our statistics have generally improved over the years, and for internal use we combine the U.S. and Canadian data and use FRA standards to measure reportable injuries. I believe our best year was 2012.”

• “This has been a very difficult time, and it will go on for a long time.”