New CP Rail policy implemented after residents voice concerns

New requirements on tree clearing have been implemented, and an open letter regarding late night noise may have had an effect.

CP Rail has changed policy after a public meeting in Trail nearly a month ago.

The railway has put new requirements on tree clearing around tracks and crossings and Linda Worley, Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) Area B director, is happy to see progress and collaboration.

The issue arose when a Castlegar resident brought large chunks of tree branch to a Nov. 21 meeting with CP Rail in Trail. The goal was to show CP Rail representative Mike LoVecchio how dangerous clearing trees with automated machines can be.

The branches, about five inches across with jagged edges, had been launched into residential areas near the tracks. The main concern for meeting attendees was the safety of their families and homes.

Now, any branches that exceed a certain size, if there is a residential area nearby, will be cleared by hand and chainsaw, hopefully limiting the number of tree pieces strewn across neighbourhoods in Castlegar.

“This policy change is big,” she said. “(CP) invited the contractor to a meeting to answer questions about company policies and now there is a strict policy in place and we hear that the new criteria will be strictly adhered to. They have put restrictions on the work.”

A policy change isn’t the only item that was followed up on after the meeting.

Worley says she saw maintenance trucks taking a look at areas on the tracks. At the Trail meeting, two residents from Rivervale had voiced concerns and shown photos of the state of the tracks with rotten rail ties and corroding tracks.

“I saw the maintenance inspection truck that is usually whizzing by at 20 miles per hour,” she said. “I saw the vehicle stop on the tracks near Rivervale and he actually got out, walked along the rails making notes and then drove a bit further ahead doing the same thing. I am seeing some progress and some effort on the part of CP to try and address some of the problems (brought up at the meeting).”

One of the main issues at the meeting last month was the train coming from Castlegar to Trail, disturbing residents in the middle of the night blaring the whistle, anytime from midnight to 3 a.m.

MP Alex Atamanenko has taken on the issue of the noise, releasing a package about the problem and an open letter to the head of CP Rail Hunter Harrison. Although Atamanenko still has yet to hear an answer, he says he has heard good things about the current schedule for the middle-of-the-night trains.

“Some people are saying that some of the trains are not going as late now, or in the early hours of the morning,” he said. “I am wondering if maybe what we have done with the meeting and the letters and all that, if that has had an effect. They would never admit that obviously, but if things are improving, that is a good thing. Officially, I haven’t had a response though.”

Atamanenko and Worley aren’t stopping their campaign to be heard by CP Rail, but at this point, the strategy is to wait and see.

“Let’s just wait it out,” said Atamanenko. “Especially during the holidays, we aren’t going to get much of anything, but we will see what happens in January and February, then we will decide how to proceed.”

Worley says all she wants is a bit more recognition and understanding from CP.

“I hope to see more collaboration,” she said. “I want to see more courtesies given to the residents, whether it is through their local government to pass on to them, or if is to the residents through the media, just to say what they are going to be doing. Its just about letting us know that these changes are going to take place, not just make a unilateral decision that affects people very negatively. To me, that is not a good corporate neighbour.”

Anyone with complaints or concerns regarding the train noise, state of the tracks or safety can contact Worley or Atamanenko.

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