Letters to the Editor

Coal dust problem has been ignored for many years

Editor: Re: The letter (The Times, May 13) about a health assessment of coal train dust.

I am truly amazed this issue has not been front and centre. Considering that government won’t even allow dirt, gravel, asphalt or garbage to be transported without containing the load, coal dust is far more of a problem. It fostered “Black Lung” in the miners of yesteryear, remember?

Wayward coal dust has been a major problem since coal trains starting running. They have been running through Langley since 1970.

The truth is government at all levels wants the problem to disappear, because they don’t know how to take on the rail companies. And so, to letter writer Steven Faraher-Amidon, the concern is noble, but action is required, as opposed to opining in a letter to the editor.

Why? Besides being unqualified and incompetent, governments have put themselves on a pedestal and no longer consider themselves servants to the public. By all accounts, they see themselves as untouchable and they know best.

They are, in fact, the highest-paid welfare recipients in the system and complicate issues which are not complicated, breaking the bank along the way. We have already seen a made-in-government solution in the three rail overpasses under construction.

It will take me the same amount of time to access and egress any of these overpasses as it would to just sit and idle and wait for the train to pass, in order for me to get back to one of the two routes heading west or north.

We have three automobile overpasses going from nowhere and ending up nowhere. They were built at a cost of more than $40 million each. They could have built two overpasses, right at Highway 10 and on 200 Street, keeping traffic flowing at the same time.

I am befuddled as to who benefited from the three projects. I know it isn’t the motorist and it certainly isn’t the taxpayer. Maybe it’s the same group that gave us ice missiles on the Port Mann Bridge? Can you say road rage?

A better option is to rally the people who have the most to lose.

A number of years ago, I was personally instrumental in remedial action to contain coal dust on a rail route. The rail company had built a tunnel below Rogers Pass, some three miles inside the mountain and twice as long. This was seen as a huge improvement over a former route.

The tunnel meant they didn’t have to contend with steep grades and so they could assign fewer locomotives to a train. Fuel savings were substantial, and so were savings on brakes.

The trains included open coal cars, but there were also trains with brand-new automobiles on open flat decks. The complaints started rolling in. It seems that coal dust was amassing in the tunnel and was finding its way into heating and ventilation ducts of brand-new automobiles.

Imagine the look on the face of the happy new auto owner, when he turns his defroster on for the first time. The rail companies were given an ultimatum — solve the problem or route the trains back to the more expensive route.

On the letter writer’s suggestion to create a study for health impact, it has zero hope of achieving anything constructive. It opens the door for another round of bureaucracy, ending with some sort of olive branch in 10 years time.

We don’t need nor can we afford another useless study. The problem is already acknowledged. Yes, our health is important, but a dog and pony show will prevail. Maybe we will even get another three overpasses.

So who has the most to lose? The Mercedes Benz dealership is located right on Highway 10, next to the tracks. BMW is across the street, Porsche will also be there shortly, and Audi is half a block away.

The remedy? Think tarp/cover, or some sort of catalyst to make coal slurry. Rerouting the rail line merely shifts the problem.

As for Langley Township, shame on it for trying to distance itself from the overpass fiasco. The overpasses being built will be insufficient to handle traffic, and the Township has known that for some time.

The Times pointed this out more than two years ago. It was stated that rail traffic was expected to increase to 40 trains daily, and that some trains were expected to be two miles long.

I’m pretty sure the Township had that information years before the newspaper did.

These new overpasses are not even open, and they are already inadequate. Drum roll please. Heads roll, please.


Richard Keill,


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