The Canada Transportation Agency has extended until Feb. 1 the operating licence of the insolvent railway involved in last July's deadly explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Que., citing reduced risk caused by a dramatic cut in the transportation of dangerous goods.
The regulator says Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway's total traffic since the crash has been cut by 70 per cent and the transportation of dangerous goods is down 80 per cent.
MMA stopped carrying crude oil after the explosion and fire that killed 47 people and destroyed a part of the town's downtown. Going forward, about 30 per cent of the railway's total volume is expected to be dangerous goods, compared with 50 per cent prior to the disaster.
The agency also says the overall risk has been reduced because the distance over which dangerous goods are carried has been cut by 90 per cent.
"The reduced volumes combined with shorter distances over which dangerous goods are carried results, in the agency's opinion, in a significant reduction in MMAR's risk exposure," said the ruling issued Wednesday.
In August, the MM&A received the go-ahead to resume its operations in Canada until Oct. 1.
Last month, MM&A asked for its certificate of fitness to be extended until Jan. 15, 2014. It was extended to Oct. 18 at the time.
Earlier this month, officials said the sale of the insolvent railway could be wrapped up in mid-December once a formal process was established to award compensation to victims and other claimants.
The decision extends the railway's certificate of fitness from Oct. 18 while courts in Quebec and the United States oversee a sales process that could be concluded by December.
The railway is self-insured for $250,000 and has $25 million in insurance coverage in the event of an accident. It is also insured under Orford Express — the operator of a tourist train that runs over part of MMA's railway network.