IT MAY take the tragedy of the deaths of two people killed after being struck by trains while trying to cross through CN’s rail yard to convince the company to do more to block access to its property, says Terrace mayor Carol Leclerc.
“I think their feet are now to the fire,” said Leclerc last week following the Aug. 26 death of Bernard Romeo Desjardins and the Aug. 31 death of Vanessa Harris.
Even before the two deaths, Leclerc said the city had asked CN to install more fencing along its rail yard which passes through the middle of the city.
That request, she added, hasn’t been completely responded to yet by CN.
The city has been speaking with CN for years about needed safety improvements.
Its more recent requests grew out of a scene witnessed by council members last November while attending a demonstration at the George Little House’s Via Rail station of a lift so passengers who need help can more easily get off or get on trains.
While there, council members and others saw a train being blocked because a man was laying across the tracks.
That prompted another letter from council to CN and several attempts to set up a meeting.
City officials did speak with CN officials via a conference call the day of the second death.
“CN does feel like we are partners with them and they will continue to push rail safety,” said Leclerc following the call.
Still, Leclerc didn’t think CN was moving as fast as it can.
Before the two deaths, CN and the city had already agreed to meeting in person later this month in Victoria during the annual Union of BC Municipalities convention being held there.
Leclerc’s anticipating a productive session.
“I think there’s a different perspective on it now,” she said of the upcoming meeting.
Leclerc added that the city has gone so far as to send CN a map of its rail yard indicating gaps in its fencing.
But what is really needed, and something which the city has lobbied for constantly, is a pedestrian overpass.
The city does not have a preferred location although Leclerc said it might make sense to place a pedestrian overpass toward the eastern end of CN’s rail yard, in the vicinity of Walmart, because those living further west use the sidewalks on the Sande Overpass.
She said the city would be willing to help pay for a pedestrian overpass in conjunction with CN, the provincial government and the federal government.
Leclerc did say the CN police officer assigned to patrol the tracks between Prince Rupert and Telkwa has paid particular attention to track-crossers during his stops here
“Terrace is his Number 1 priority and he treats people with respect,” said Leclerc of the officer.
His work here did lead to a city/CN combined cleanup of the track area 10 days ago and there’s now a portable toilet in place on the north side of the tracks, she added.
Also speaking about the two deaths last week was Skeena NDP MP Nathan Cullen who is urging the federal government to use some of its promised infrastructure spending to pay for a pedestrian overpass.
“This may be an incredibly appropriate time to follow through on that commitment,” he said.
Cullen did add that it may be hard to convince CN to be a financial contributor for the construction of a pedestrian overpass.
CN, said Cullen, in past dealings “has been incredibly difficult to work with,” citing issues on everything from loud horns as trains pass through populated areas to safety concerns on level crossings.
But with two deaths in the space of five days, Cullen said CN has a moral obligation, along with the federal government and perhaps the province, to take appropriate measures.