Tempers flared at a public meeting with Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) on Friday.
The meeting, hosted by Area B director Linda Worley and MP Alex Atamanenko in the Greater Trail Community Centre, was a follow-up to the Castlegar meeting in October where a spokesperson addressed issues of noise and safety along the tracks.
Over half of the room got up to leave when CPR director of government affairs, Mike LoVecchio, revealed that CPR decision-makers won’t be changing anything when it comes to the train schedule and the associated noise.
“The answer was that we are not just going to be moving crews around, we want that locomotive in Trail at the start of the next day, which is very early in the morning,” he said. “Whether the locomotive comes through at 1:30 or 5 a.m., what’s the difference? It is going to come back at night.”
In September, the railway added a new train trip from Castlegar to Trail, anytime between midnight and 3 a.m., sounding its whistle and disturbing residents along the tracks in Castlegar, Genelle, Rivervale, Tadanac and Sunningdale.
Bad road conditions and messy weather left most of the seats at the meeting empty, but those in attendance were passionate about the cause.
One upset resident asked, after an hour and a half of discussion, whether CPR would be open to working with the communities to come up with a better plan, or would residents along the tracks just have to live with the late-night noise.
The answer from CPR was clear: there won’t be collaboration with communities to solve the issue.
As residents were leaving, some weren’t shy about voicing their opinions about the way the railway has handled this situation.
“You’ve destroyed the valley and my property,” said one resident in a raised voice while exiting.
“I hope you are proud of yourself,” said another. “The real estate is going to go down, the population is going to go down and people are going to be leaving. It is a shame that you won’t work with us.”
Russ Babcock, a Genelle resident, was at the meeting and believes that CPR needs to be more accountable to the residents that live along the tracks and even plan ahead for schedule changes.
“If night trains are so beneficial to CPR, then maybe they should install controlled crossings where crossings exist in residential neighbourhoods,” he wrote in an email. “Then the whistle would be redundant and unnecessary. We’ d all be back to restful nights, and living in harmony with CPR.”
Worley agreed that there has to be a way for residents and CPR to work together on the problem.
“I was not surprised at the canned responses to the very valid and serious concerns of the residents of Area B and surrounding areas,” she wrote in an email.
“I did however hope that there would be some reconsideration by CPR and perhaps some effort on their part to listen and hear the extremely negative impacts that their rescheduling has created, and make an effort to change them.”
At the meeting, Bill Edwards and Roger Cox, both residents of Rivervale, walked the tracks and shared images of what they discovered with the CPR representative.
The pictures showed rotting rail ties, loose bolts, scrap metal piles and eroding tracks.
LoVecchio said the tracks were inspected twice a week — double the Transportation Safety Board’s legislated minimum. Residents didn’t feel that the answers they were given satisfied their questions.
“We only have one way in and one way out (of Rivervale),” said Edwards. “As Mike indicated, these tracks are looked at on a regular basis, but in my mind, as a resident of that area, I still have real concerns.”
It was revealed by LoVecchio that a slow order, down to 10 miles per hour, was issued for the stretch of tracks because of maintenance issues and the next step is for the tracks to be replaced in 2015. But, he says, the current state of the tracks is still within federal standards.
Residents and organizers left the meeting feeling like they hadn’t received any solid answers, and MP Atamanenko says he will be taking the issue further.
As a closer to the meeting, the MP stated that he would be launching a federal plea for collaboration between residents and the railway company and isn’t giving up on reaching an answer.
“I am leaving this meeting, and I will be frank, angry,” he said. “To me, it boils down to the fact that people have the right to a good night’s sleep and I am taking it nationally. Just so you are aware, I am not letting this lie here. Whether it is contacting Kathy Tomlinson at CBC Investigates, or Question Period, or a press conference in Ottawa. I still think that there could be a way of reaching a solution.”
Worley also isn’t letting the matter sit and gather dust and says her work, when it comes to CPR, isn’t over.
“It was made clear to Mr. LoVecchio, with a statement by Alex and my agreement with that statement, that we are not prepared to close this issue,” she wrote. “We will pursue it further and to a wider audience, immediately.”