CN railcars on tracks near Greig Ave. and Clinton St. in Terrace, Nov. 5, 2021. So far this year, there have been two trespassing incidents resulting in death on CN tracks. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)

CN railcars on tracks near Greig Ave. and Clinton St. in Terrace, Nov. 5, 2021. So far this year, there have been two trespassing incidents resulting in death on CN tracks. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)

Terrace one of the worst locations for railway trespassing deaths, injury in northern B.C.

Two people have died, one injured on Terrace CN tracks in 2021

Terrace recorded a quarter of all trespassing incidents on federally regulated railways resulting in serious injury or death in B.C. so far this year, according to recent data.

In total, there have been 12 such incidents in the province, with five of them resulting in death and seven in serious injury. In Terrace, two people have died and one was injured. The three other deaths took place in Mission (1) and Chilliwack (2).

According to Transportation Safety Board of Canada statistics, people trespassing were struck by trains and killed on May 29 and July 19 in Terrace.

In both incidents, people stepped in front of fast moving trains, one at the eastern edge of CN’s railyard where the number of tracks narrow, acting as an enticement for people trying to cross from one side of Terrace to the other. The other fatality took place in the railyard proper between in the area of Greig Ave. and Kalum St.

One of the seven incidents resulting in serious injury happened in Terrace. A man was struck by a train on Sept. 15, and suffered non-life threatening injuries.

In that incident, a video recording taken from the lead locomotive of a west-bound train shows a man being struck just as he was attempting to get off the left hand rail of the track.

This year’s deaths and injury add to two deaths in 2016, another death in 2017 and one injury in 2017 within the CN railyard here in Terrace.

CN Police Constable Jim Thorne, with more than 30 years of experience as a police officer, calls Terrace the “worst spot” for trespassing and resulting deaths and injuries between Prince Rupert and Houston along CN’s northern line.

Fencing at best acts as a deterrent to those determined to trespass and cross the tracks from one side of the city to another, said Thorne.

“They just cut it and we come along and repair it,” he said.

The railway tracks cut Terrace in two, leaving sizeable populations on either side with the Sande Overpass being the only main artery for vehicle and pedestrian traffic crossing over the tracks.

There is no crossing point between the overpass and Old Skeena Bridge — the area where most trespassing incidents happen.

Terrace council identified a second overpass for pedestrians as a priority years ago, but has not been able to make progress on the project.

In 2016 and again in 2018, CN and the City of Terrace extended fencing on the north side of CN’s railyard from its eastern end, west toward the Sande Overpass in an attempt to stop trespassing.

Portions of the fencing were topped by strands of barbed wire and on one occasion, a homeless camp adjacent to the tracks below the curling rink parking lot area was dismantled in an attempt to stop people from congregating there.

That’s the area where there are not as many tracks running parallel to each other, making it more enticing for people to attempt to cross back and forth.

CN does not have cameras in all of its railyards but to act as a deterrent where there are cameras there would need to be an immediate response.

There are three CN police officer positions along its northern line, two in Prince George and one for the Prince Rupert to Houston area. The latter is vacant but has been posted.

Thorne said information provided by citizens and close cooperation with the RCMP is vital in curtailing trespassing.

“There are lots of times we rely on the RCMP,” he said.

Fines can also act as a deterrent as well as education and reinforcing the message that injury and death can be the result of trespassing, Thorne added.

This past June, the federal government used provisions within the Railway Safety Act to raise fines for both trespassing on railway property and for not giving way at railway crossings when trains approach.

“It’s important to get that message out,” said Thorne of the updated $500 trespassing fine as well as the $750 fine for not giving way.

ALSO READ: Man struck by train in Terrace CN railyard

According to the Railway Association of Canada, in 2018 there were 6,742 kilometres of operational track in B.C., through cities in the Lower Mainland and elsewhere, like Victoria, Nanaimo, Kamloops, Cranbrook, Quesnel, Prince George and communities all along Hwy 16 in the north.