The first trains are expected to start moving through Lac-Mégantic by the middle of next week but will stay away from the community's devastated downtown, a trustee for the company that owns the tracks says.
Robert Keach, trustee for Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, said service will initially be limited to the Quebec town's industrial park, which can be reached using tracks that run just east of the downtown. MM&A is still in talks with the town over plans to relaunch rail service but Mr. Keach said he believes a deal will be reached in time for trains to start running next week.
"If all goes well, there will be limited service to [particle board manufacturer] Tafisa and to another customer in the industrial park, Logi-Bel, that will start next week," Mr. Keach said.
Asked when the town of Lac-Mégantic expects service to begin, municipal spokesman Louis Longchamps said it is still too early to comment on a date. "If one side doesn't sign, it won't happen," he warned.
MM&A filed for creditor protection this year after a train hauling crude oil jumped the tracks in Lac-Mégantic, killing 47 people and levelling several city blocks. Mr. Keach said he expects the company's assets to be sold before the end of January, 2014.
Despite the devastation, some in the small lakeside town are eager for rail service to return because companies in the industrial park – which employs many residents – rely on trains to distribute their merchandise. MM&A has agreed not to carry oil on the Lac-Mégantic tracks, but the town will have no veto power over what is hauled through it once the company has been sold.
Mr. Keach said the company is aiming to restart service on Dec. 18. "That's the plan for as of right now. Could it change? Certainly it could. I'm not expecting it, but, you know, we will see."