Letter: Railway responds to concerns


Dear Editor,

Dear John Williams;

Referencing your e-mail of July 15th, I regret the disruption to you and your family 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 re-routing 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. Re-routing 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 and unfortunately, disturbance to nearby residence 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 discretion of the engineer but a requirement of the Canadian Railway Operating Rules which state: 

 14. Engine Whistle Signals 

NOTE: (i) Wherever the words “engine whistle” appear in these rules they also refer to “engine horn”. Signals prescribed by this rule are illustrated by “o” for short sounds; “___” for longer sounds. 

(ii) Engine whistle signals must be sounded as prescribed by this rule, and should be distinct, with intensity and duration proportionate to the distance the signal is to be conveyed. Unnecessary use of the whistle is prohibited. 

 (l) ___ ___ o ___     (#)At public crossings at grade: Movements operating at 44 MPH or less must sound whistle signal to provide 20 seconds warning before entering the crossing and continuing to sound whistle signal until crossing is fully occupied.

Additionally, the locomotive must have “a horn capable of producing a minimum sound level of 96 (db)A at any location on an arc of 30 meters (100 feet) radius subtended forward of the locomotive by angles 45 degrees to the left and to the right of the centerline of the track in the direction of travel.”

 I can assure you that safety of train operations has been SRY’s primary consideration with the re-routing 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 municpalities to keep the citizens informed. In this regard, The Langley Times had an excellent editorial titled, “Rural drivers face challenge of delays from coal trains” on July 7th, the first day of our re-routed trains.

Once again I regret the disruption and inconvenience of these trains but please don’t hesitate to contact me further for any additional details. 

J. Singh Biln, Director Community Relations & Chief Mechanical Officer, Southern Railway of British Columbia Limited

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