Tuesday, December 10, 2013
By Kevin Miller email@example.com
Washington Bureau Chief
(Continued from page 1)
"We are going to look at everything," Bourdon said. "Was (crew size) a contributing factor? We don't know. TSB may determine that it was. But in the meantime, we want to revise everything."
The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic train had been parked unattended on rail lines about seven miles from downtown Lac-Megantic late in the evening of July 5. The engineer apparently left one of the locomotives running to power the air brakes and set an as-yet-undisclosed number of hand brakes on rail cars as backup before he headed into town for the night.
However, the locomotive apparently was shut down by firefighters working to extinguish a fire in the engine, eventually leading to the failure of the air brakes. Questions remain about what happened after firefighters reported their actions to railway employees.
In the early morning hours of July 6 the crewless train began rolling downhill toward Lac-Megantic. Witnesses estimate that the nearly mile-long train it was traveling up to 60 mph -- in a 10-mph zone -- when it reached town and jumped the tracks.
It was evident from Thursday's committee discussion that the railroads and labor unions are on different tracks when it comes to minimum crew size. A union representative suggested again Thursday that the single engineer could not complete all of the safety steps needed to properly secure the train outside of Lac-Megantic.
The Federal Railroad Administration has made clear the agency believes safety is "enhanced" with a two-person crew. Szabo, a former union official, said he would prefer to address the issue through the collaborative advisory committee process but said his agency has the authority to address crew size.
"I have confidence that the (advisory committee) will do the right thing, but we always reserve our right to promulgate a regulation any time it is necessary," Szabo said.
Kevin Miller -- 317-6256