CN is installing two sections of fence on the north side of its railyard that when finished will mean a continuous fence line from near the old Skeena Bridge running west toward the Sande Overpass.
It marks the latest in a series of measures to deter trespassers from being injured or worse if struck by trains while trying to get from one side of the city to another by clambering over CN’s tracks.
Earlier this year the city installed a section of its own fence with a small length reaching east of the George Little House and a much longer section stretching west of the George Little House down the property line of the city-owned former Terrace Co-op property.
One section of the CN fence project will connect to the city fence just east of the George Little House and continue down to the former Imperial Oil bulk plant at the foot of Clinton while the other will lead off from where the city fence stops as the western edge of the Co-op property toward the Staples building.
The majority of the city’s costs for its fence work were covered by a $25,280 Transport Canada grant first approved last year.
Trespassers for years have been crossing through CN’s railyard where some sections have been fenced either by CN or by property owners along the railyard. Other sections have been left wide open.
Pressure to fully block trespassers mounted in the late summer of 2016 when two people were struck by trains in two separate incidents on the eastern end of the railyard while attempting to cross.
And in September of 2017 another man was killed, followed in the fall with a woman receiving life-altering injuries when hit by a train in the vicinity of the Skeena Liquor Store.
CN did respond to the 2016 deaths by installing 1,000 feet of fence topped with three strands of barbed wire on the north side of the railyard below the curling rink.
Volunteers with the assistance of CN Police and the city also cleaned up a homeless camp at the location in an attempt to prevent people from congregating there.
A CN Police constable based in Prince Rupert also worked closely with community members, the city and the RCMP in patrolling the railyard.
That officer has since moved and his replacement is now based in Terrace, said Jonathan Abecassis, a Montreal-based CN communications official.
“We take the issue of trespassing on rail property extremely seriously. As you know, we work with local communities on the shared responsibility that is rail safety and we have a very constructive relationship with Terrace,” he said.
“We’re still in discussions with them regarding the yard but our conversations have been positive and we’re committed to working together to address this issue.”
Transport Canada, CN’s federal regulator, does not specifically require the company to install fencing along tracks running through populated areas.
George Little House manager Debbie Letawski welcomed the city’s fence around the property and now CN’s work.
“Perhaps now we can prevent that from happening again,” she said of the two 2016 deaths.
The city fence on both sides of the George Little House as well as two gates provide more security for people working inside the house and for VIA Rail passengers waiting to board and for people arriving to pick up arriving passengers, Letawski said.
“And this also acts as a visual deterrent,” she noted.
Letawksi said CN’s decision to base its northwestern constable in Terrace will further work to deter trespassers.
“He’s working well with us and with the RCMP and that’s something we really appreciate,” she added.
As much as fencing will deter trespassing, other work has gone on to dampen the congregating of homeless and others along the north side of the railyard.
A tree that became a rallying point for gatherings was removed and tall grass and vegetation on several lots verging on the tracks was cut down.
That provides better sightlines for rail crews and takes away hidden places where people could congregate.
City workers also removed a large landscaping berm between the George Little House and tracks, eliminating a place for drinking and anti-social behaviour.
“I can tell you activity has certainly fallen off,” said Letawski of the combined effects of fencing and the other work.