In Wake of Lac-Mégantic Train Inferno, Anger Turns Toward Profit-Hungry 'Rail Empire'

Home / In Wake of Lac-Mégantic Train Inferno, Anger Turns Toward Profit-Hungry 'Rail Empire'

As devastated families members in the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic received news from authorities that relatives still missing are now presumed dead—bringing the possible total deaths in last weekend’s train derailment to fifty people—anger is growing with the profit-hungry rail company behind the disaster.

While twenty bodies have been recovered, police officials on Wednesday met with members of thirty additional families who had unaccounted for relatives.

“We’ve met with the families of these deceased or potentially deceased persons,” said Quebec provincial police Inspector Michel Forget at a press conference, “and we informed them of the potential loss of their nears.”

Amid the sadness permeating the town, anger was also taking hold.

In one incident reported by the Montreal Gazette, a local resident responded in anger after he noticed an employee of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway behaving aggressively” toward a newspaper photographer, the Gazette’s own John Kenney, who was taking pictures of the burnt out rail cars.

The Gazette reports (restricted):

But as news spread of the death toll, the growing focus on Edward Burkhardt, CEO of the rail company that owned the train, continued.


“It was all about cutting, cutting, cutting. It’s just an example of putting company profits ahead of public safety.” -Jarod Briggs, former MMA employee who resigned over safety concerns

Burkhardt is the CEO of both Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA), the company directly associated with the derailment which unleashed so much destruction, and its much larger parent company, Rail World Inc. As Common Dreams reported Wednesday, the CEO so far has been deflecting any and all 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.

But as additional reporting by the Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal and Toronto Star shows, Burkhardt’s “railway empire” has been fueled by an aggressive business strategy that has relied on busting railway workers unions, privatizing public rail systems, and imposing controversial changes that critics say supplant safety with pursuit of profit.

From the Tribune:

Relating to safety concerns, the Wall Street Journal adds that

But, as the Toronto Star reports, that kind of cost-cutting by Burkhardt implemented at MMA in Quebec and Maine resulted in warnings from employees that safety had been put in jeopardy:


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