April 7, 2017

April 24th to 30th is ‘Public Rail Safety Week’, and I want to commend CN for its public safety awareness programs, such as ‘Operation Lifesaver’.

‘Operation Lifesaver’ deals with potential dangers at highway/railway crossings and public rail trespassing on railway property.

But, I must also now speak out against CN Rail for their lack of respect towards the public in the reciprocation of safety at many of their crossings.

Most of CN trackage is double through the Riding of Yellowhead with upward of 50 trains a day rolling east or west.

CN is not being a good neighbour to the residents of Edson.  There is continued blockage of public crossings at 54th and 63rd Streets; Range Road 180, or as we locals call it, “the dump crossings”; Willmore Park Road; and Ansell Tower.

Over the last three years, blockage at these crossings have increased where residents have been caught on the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ from 20 to 40 minutes at a time, with super trains blocking all three crossings at one time.

The law states under the ‘Canadian Rail Operating Rules’, enforced by Transport Canada and CN’s own Police Force, under Section 97 (2) that: “It is prohibited for railway equipment to be left standing on a crossing surface, or for switching operations to be conducted, in a manner that obstructs a public grade crossing – including by the activation of the gate of a warning system – for more than five minutes when vehicular or pedestrian traffic is waiting to cross it.”

I have consulted with CN officials in Ottawa down to local supervisors in the riding.  We, the residents of Edson and area, have tried to hold public meetings with CN, but they will not show up.  Why???  I have held meetings with Transport Canada officials and CN personnel resulting in little to no follow-up.  As a former police officer, I was somewhat taken aback when a Transport Canada enforcement employee told me that “he is not concerned with the five minute rule”.

I believe, as do most of my constituents, that THEIR SAFETY is being threatened by CN’s actions and Transport Canada’s lack of action or intervention.

Imagine if you lived on Willmore Park Road and you had an emergency (i.e., stroke or heart attack).  How do you clear a two mile plus train quickly?  You can’t.  By the time you call through channels with messages being relayed back and forth and action taken, 15 minutes will pass.  That’s too long!  We will lose a life and that to me is not acceptable.

Now, I want to address CN directly.

My concerns are the health of my constituents, the time of my constituents, and the safety of my constituents — not your profit margin, not the convenience of your crew, etc.

Public Rail Safety Week is coming up.  You have failed to live-up to your own expectations.   You have failed to follow the rules that govern you. You have failed to be a safe corporate partner to our communities.

CN, we both know there are ways to fix this situation.  You, CN, are refusing to be pro-active in this life threatening situation.

In closing, I do want to say that last week I had the opportunity to meet with a local CN police official.  He fully understands what is happening.  I was impressed with the concerns and professionalism he showed.

Again, to CN, support your own police officials so that they can protect the safety of your railway and the safety of all Yellowhead residents and businesses.

I believe changes can be made to improve this situation.  CN, it is up to you!

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