Report: 'Weak Safety Culture' Led to Lac Megantic Disaster

Aug 19, 2014

The Lac-Mégantic derailment site following the accident.
Credit Courtesy Transportation Safety Board of Canada

LAC MEGANTIC, Quebec - Canadian officials say the runaway train disaster that killed 47 people and destroyed part of Lac Megantic, Quebec last summer was caused by a combination of human error and lax safety systems.

That's the conclusion of a year-long investigation into the accident by Canada's Transportation Safety Board.  At a press conference unveiling the investigation's findings, TSB Chair Wendy Tadros said Maine-based Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway shares some of the blame.

"The context starts with MMA, a short-line railway running its operations at the margins, choosing to lower the track speeds rather than invest more in infrastructure, cutting corners  on engine maintenance and training, and then relying on employees to follow the rules," Tadros said. Tadros said MMA didn't have a safety management system in place.  

But Tadros says the report also found that weak government oversight was a factor, and that the TSB didn't properly audit the railway and its safety systems.

Tadros said the report recommends that more steps be taken to prevent runaway trains, noting that trains are still allowed to remain unattended on descending grades. The report also recommends that railway audits be done more frequently and thoroughly.

Below is a three-minute animation re-enacting the accident that TSB officials showed at today's news conference.

View the entire Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigative report.