Privatization's the Name of the Game for Accident-Prone Train Company Behind Lac-Mégantic Oil Disaster

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Common Dreams

Privatization's the Name of the Game for Accident-Prone Train Company Behind Lac-Mégantic Oil Disaster

'No more killer train' say residents of disaster-hit town

by
Andrea Germanos, staff writer

As the head of the company behind the runaway oil train that derailed and caused a fireball explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec faced furious residents on Wednesday, he continued to defend the shoddy safety record of his company hell-bent on privatization.

Edward Burkhardt, chairman of Maine, Montreal and Atlantic Railways (MM&A) and President and CEO of Rail World, Inc., its parent company, headed to the tragedy-stricken town where he hoped he was "not going to get shot," though he faced heckling by residents and dodged a handful of reporters.

One resident, Richard Lefebvre, carried a sign with a simple message likely felt throughout the town: “No more killer train.”

Burkhardt has been deflecting blame for the disaster, denying he had first blamed local firefighters and later saying it was the fault of an employee for not setting the brakes.

Burkhardt didn't mention MM&A's safety track record.

The Canadian Press, citing information from the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration, reports that the MM&A has had 8 derailments and four collisions since 2010, and it has an average of 34.7 accidents per million miles traveled, well above the national average of 2.3 accidents per million miles.  The Wall Street Journal adds that the company had "23 accidents, injuries or reportable mishaps from 2010 to 2012."

As for the parent company itself Rail World Inc., its goals are laid bare on its own website:

A railway management, consulting and investment corporation specializing in privatizations and restructurings.  Its purpose is to promote rail industry privatization by bringing together government bodies wishing to sell their stakes with investment capital and management skills.

The Chicago Tribune adds information on how Burkhardt's rail privatization push extends beyond North America:

Besides working with railroads, Burkhardt is New Zealand's honorary consul for the Midwest, a position he picked up after helping to privatize railways on the Pacific Ocean island.

Rail World Inc. also states that Burkhardt led the privatization of Estonian railways.

The official death toll from the disaster is at 15 with 60 still missing.

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