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CEO hopes town where 47 died will OK oil trains

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 16, 2014 at 8:49 pm •  Published: May 16, 2014

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The company buying the assets of a railroad responsible for a fiery oil train derailment that claimed 47 lives in Quebec plans to resume oil shipments once track safety improvements are made, its top executive said Friday.

John Giles, CEO of Central Maine and Quebec Railway, said he hopes to have an agreement with officials in Lac Megantic, Quebec, within 10 days that would allow the railroad to ship nonhazardous goods, restoring the vital link between the railroad's operations to the east and west of the community.

The company plans to spend $10 million on rail improvements in Canada over the next two years with a goal of resuming oil shipments in 18 months, he said.

"In the interest of safety, and I think being sensitive toward a social contract with Lac Megantic, we have chosen not to handle crude oil and dangerous goods through the city until we've got the railroad infrastructure improved and made more reliable," he told The Associated Press.

The oil industry is relying heavily on trains to transport crude in part because of oil booms in North Dakota's Bakken region and Alberta's oil sands.

In July, a train transporting Bakken oil was left unattended by its lone crew member while parked near Lac Megantic. The train began rolling and sped downhill into the town, where more than 60 tank cars derailed and several exploded. The accident killed 47 people and destroyed much of the town. Three workers were charged this week in Canada with criminal negligence.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants the railroad and Lac Megantic residents to work together on a final plan.

"Any plan the company has should take into account the tragedy the people of Lac Megantic have gone through and should be done in collaboration with the administration of the city," said Carl Vallee, a spokesman for the prime minister.

Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt said only that she was monitoring the situation.

Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche, who had no comment on Friday, previously told the new operator that she wanted the railroad to be re-routed around the downtown.

News that the new railroad is already talking about resuming operations upset Yannick Gagne, owner of the cafe-bar that was at ground zero of the tragedy.

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