Quebec flagA new term (for me, at least) has emerged in the aftermath of the horrific train disaster in Quebec last Saturday that decimated the town of Lac-Mégantic and left up to 60 people dead or missing (and thought to be dead). The term is “one-man crew.” That’s how many people have been manning some freight trains. Apart from being a somewhat questionable term grammatically speaking — the word “crew” usually means more than one — it is even more questionable to have only one engineer running a train. I mean, what if that sole engineer were to have a heart attack or something? Isn’t that one of the reasons why passenger airlines usually have a pilot AND a co-pilot?

It is too early to assign blame for the tragedy in Quebec, though the company that owns the train is now pointing a finger at the engineer, who has been suspended without pay. But even if the engineer did make a mistake, perhaps a co-engineer would have caught it.

People DO make mistakes. We are all human, after all.  We should never leave the responsibility of running something as large as a freight train or a passenger train to one person. It seems so obvious that I wonder how anybody could ever have thought a “one-man crew” system would be safe. What were they thinking?

Meanwhile, Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has decreed that Quebec flags will fly at half-staff for a week, starting Thursday. It will also fly at half-staff in this blog.

I pray that the rail industry will learn from this tragedy, and will move to make sure it can never happen again.