Letters to the Editor

Safety top issue in rerouting of coal trains

Editor: This is in response to John Williams’ letter, emailed to Southern Railway of B.C.

Dear John Williams:

I regret the disruption to you and your family caused by the additional trains on SRY’s Fraser Valley Subdivision between Livingstone and the Sumas border crossing.

However, please note that this subdivision is an active railway, operating for over 100 years, and subject to traffic fluctuations as business and the economy dictates.

Railroads are a vital part of the North American transportation network. Long single-commodity unit train operations are now standard on most railways and SRY must also remain current with industry trends.

Because railways are so efficient, unit train traffic continues to increase on all railroads, including lightly loaded rail corridors. For your information, the Railway Association of Canada reports that one such train can remove up to 280 trucks from our congested highways.

SRY is rerouting empty BNSF unit trains over our line because of capacity constraints on their line while track repairs are in progress. Additionally, there is no place to store the empty trains, so they must be moved as soon as they are unloaded at Roberts Bank and as a result, can be on our track at any time of day or night. Rerouting these trains over the SRY is the most direct alternative, as other routes are complex or heavily congested.

Regarding the whistle noise, I can assure you that use of the whistle is an absolute requirement for public safety. Unfortunately, disturbance to nearby residents is the consequence.

Please be aware there are dozens of accidents at rail crossings in Canada each year, many resulting in injuries or worse. The proper use of the horn is not at the discretion of the engineer, but a requirement of Canadian railway operating rules.

The safety of train operations has been SRY’s primary consideration with the rerouting of these trains. We completed an extensive risk assessment prior to bringing this traffic on our line and implemented a number of safety initiatives to ensure safe operations.

Please note that these are empty trains, so the stresses on the tracks are significantly less than loaded trains and the safety risk is correspondingly less.

Although the traffic on our line has been light in recent years, we previously ran 50- to 60-car trains regularly on these tracks, as they are built to the required safety standards.

We continue to inspect the track regularly and to maintain it to safe standards.

Although we do not notify individual residents along our line of any traffic changes, we rely on local media and municipalities to keep the citizens informed.

In this regard, The Times had an excellent editorial titled, “Rural drivers face challenge of delays from coal trains,” which was published on July 8, the first week of the re-routing of the trains.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me further for any additional details.

J. Singh Biln,

Director of Community Relations,

Southern Railway of B.C.

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