CP purchase of CM&Q will have little impact on Lac-Megantic bypass

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Sale of the Central Maine & Quebec won't alter plans for a bypass around Lac-Megantic, Quebec, devastated by the 2013 derailment and fire of a runaway oil train.
Transportation Safety Board of Canada

LAC–MÉGANTIC, Quebec — The Canadian government says the sale of the Central Maine & Quebec Railway to Canadian Pacific will have little impact on the plan to build a rail bypass around a town devastated by a 2013 oil train derailment.

In 2018, the Canadian government announced it would help fund a $100 million effort to construct an 8-mile bypass around the town of Lac-Mégantic, where a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic oil train derailed and exploded in July 2013. The blast killed 47 people and decimated the community’s downtown. The Canadian government is paying for 60% of the project and the Quebec government is paying for 40%.

On Nov. 20, CP announced that it was buying MM&A’s successor, CM&Q, for $130 million. The sale is expected to be completed before the end of the year.

“Transport Canada will continue to work with all parties involved and do not expect that this transaction will impact the timeline of the Lac-Mégantic bypass project,” Transport Canada spokeswoman Annie Joannette tells Trains News Wire.

The government is currently working on purchasing land for the bypass and Joannette says the provincial environmental assessment of the project should be completed in early 2020. Officials hope to have the project completed by 2023.

Town officials say they are optimistic about CP’s return to Lac-Mégantic. The rail line through the town was built by the CP in the late 1880s and sold to a shortline company in 1995. Mayor Julie Morin says CP officials called her before the sale was announced and vowed to work with the community on a number of issues, including rail safety and a continued ban on the movement of crude oil through town.

“This is a first contact that makes us confident for the future,” Morin says.

In a press release announcing the sale, CP President and CEO Keith Creel said the acquisition will help better serve customers and the region. Officials are particularly interested in the prospects of connecting to the port at Searsport, Maine. Nathan Moulton, rail director for the Maine Department of Transportation, tells Trains News Wire that state officials are excited that CP has decided to return to the state after a 25-year absence.

“We are looking forward to working with CP,” Moulton says. “We hope this brings improved options to Maine shippers and further development at the Port of Searsport.”

How operations and motive power on the railroad will change once the sale is complete is unclear. CP spokesman Jeremy Berry tells Trains News Wire that the railroad “will continue to operate as a distinct and separate entity” but declined to offer more details on what that would look like.

“That being said, CP will be the new owner, and in this position, will instill its values of safety and efficiency on CM&Q, similar to how CP manages its other subsidiaries comprising CP’s rail network,” he says. “This will be a natural fit with CM&Q’s own vision of safety and efficiency.”

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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