A train blasting its horn in the early hours of the morning has awoken a group of upset residents living along the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP Rail) tracks.
At a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at the Greater Trail Community Centre, CP Rail will be responding to resident questions and concerns, like those of Russ Babcock in Genelle.
Babcock says in all the years he has lived near the tracks, there has never been a night train, until now.
“CP Rail has been coming in and out of Trail now for many years,” he said. “They haven’t been coming in at night since I can remember and it certainly has been decades. There is really nothing that has changed in Trail by their main customer, Teck, so there really is no need for them to go at night.”
Babcock says the issue he has with CP Rail is how they don’t seem to consult those affected by a schedule change.
“They seem to have a total disregard for the communities they pass through,” he said. “I can appreciate that they are probably saving a little bit of money now, but I don’t think that is enough to justify waking everybody up.”
Mike LoVecchio, director of government affairs for the railway, will be representing CP Rail at the event.
Linda Worley, Regional District of Kootenay Boundary Area B director and host of the public meeting, says she hopes to be able to help affected residents, like Babcock, have their concerns heard.
“I am hoping that people will come to the meeting with definitive things that are bothering them and concerns over safety,” she said.
“I do hope for Mr. LoVecchio and CP Rail to see the power of the people.”
Babcock says he plans to attend the meeting, which is the second in as many months. The first was in Castlegar and Worley is extending an open invitation to anyone who couldn’t find a spot in the last jam-packed information session.
She also has her fingers crossed that the railway company has had time to address the issues regarding noise and scheduling brought up in Castlegar.
“I hope we gave them a chance to go back with our concerns from the Castlegar meeting and come forward this time with some new information,” she said. “We will find out in the meeting.”
At the public meeting in Castlegar, LoVecchio said he would be looking into the length of the train whistles and would discuss with CP Rail, alternate options for moving employees on the night runs, such as shuttles from Castlegar to Trail.
Worley is asking those who plan on attending the meeting on Friday evening to come prepared with their questions and concerns, but to remain civil during this important discussion.
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“I am hoping that people will be able to say what they want to say,” she said. “I want it to be done in a fashion that is non-confrontational because that could put CP’s back up and they might not hear what we are saying.”
The public meeting comes after Worley and MP Alex Atamanenko received numerous complaints about the CP Rail schedule and safety standards from residents.
“People are worried about property values, and some businesses, like Super 8 Motel, are worried about losing customers,” she said. “The train goes over Genelle’s aquifer and the secondary water source as well, China Creek.”
“There are so many constituents that have contacted Alex’s office and myself and we have been collaborating through it all and we decided that we needed to have a meeting for this side of the regional district.”
Worley can relate to Babcock’s concerns, but her main questions revolves around the safety on the tracks. She, and others, have walked along the train route to check for imperfections. She says the fatal Lac-Megantic derailment comes to mind.
“Does the train horn disturb me? Absolutely,” she said. “But with me, I am really concerned about the safety issue. They are carrying not only dangerous, but deadly materials. You would think, once bitten, twice shy – that they would be maintaining the tracks to their highest quality. I have been walking along the tracks, and several people in Rivervale are doing the same thing, and we have noticed rotting ties, unplaced ties and bowed tracks.”
“I don’t dispute that the train can run 24/7, the tracks were here before people were here. What I am concerned about, at this point, is that they are not maintaining the tracks to the highest level.”
The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. on Friday in the Muriel Griffiths Room at the Charles Bailey Theatre. The public is welcome to attend and share their issues with CP Rail.