Letters to the Editor

Rail route makes a difference

Attendees at a Nov. 26 public meeting hosted by the cities of Surrey and White Rock examine potential train routes. - Tracy Holmes photo
Attendees at a Nov. 26 public meeting hosted by the cities of Surrey and White Rock examine potential train routes.
— image credit: Tracy Holmes photo

Editor:

Re: Cities present four rail-route options; Cloverdale wary of plan, Nov. 28.

I am awakened at night by the heavy rumble of the coal trains and their loud whistle. I am alarmed by the danger the cargo poses as it travels over old broken ballasts. I worry about the effect on ocean life and on our health.

These tracks were never designed for so much heavy coal. Because of the wear on the ballast, our community and many others are at an increased risk of a derailment of the toxic, dangerous goods that routinely pass through.

This idea of transferring the problem to another community is something I cannot abide.

Reading the Cloverdale resident’s remarks was very sad, for they already have trains through their community.

Honestly, as a White Rock resident I cannot bear to read that our city would promote such selfishness. Why would Mayor Wayne Baldwin champion this? Are we this myopic? Why not address this dirty coal’s terrible contribution to climate change and the world’s pollution?

B.C. is soon to become a major pollution contributor with fracked LNG, tar sands oil and thermal coal leaving our ports. This issue would be worth taking on.

I am embarrassed to be a resident of such a selfish city.

I hope this tweaks someone’s conscience, or we really are in trouble.

Louise Bjorknas, White Rock

• • •

The ‘rails to trails’ project is fresh out of the station, and the naysayers are already lining up for the ride.

Some reporters have taken it upon themselves to provide a detailed inventory of all possible obstacles, one has weighed in with a completely unconstructive nonsensical satire, an environmentalist has issued a “war” notice if farmland is involved, the Peace Arch News opened their contribution with a poll that focused on the huge estimated cost, and other assorted pessimists and cynics have opined that while the benefits are tremendous, the whole thing is doomed to fail.

On the positive side, Surrey and White Rock’s presentation of the initiative on Nov. 26 was greeted with a capacity crowd of mostly enthusiastic supporters.

Admittedly, the cost, if accurate, does seem like a lot of money, but it will be put into better perspective when compared to the cost of the South Fraser Perimeter Road, which I believe was $1.2 billion, or the cost of the light rail Surrey Rapid Transit Project, estimated at $1.8 billion.

Keep in mind, there are many stakeholders who will benefit, including the BNSF itself, which has an unstable slope, two aging bridges spanning both the Nicomekl and the Serpentine rivers, a winding route through populated communities that limits speed, as well as a tightening regulatory noose resulting from safety and environmental concerns – not to mention the huge legal liability that would result should a train disaster occur in heavily populated areas or environmentally sensitive waters.

The railway has everything to gain. They will contribute.

The federal government already has a railway relocation act on the books, which can provide funds.

The province will have to be persuaded, but the will to act needs local support and strong local leaders with vision. Fortunately we have two such leaders in mayors Dianne Watts and Wayne Baldwin; with these two carrying the banner – backed by supportive councils – it remains for the residents to rally behind this effort.

No one anticipates this project will be an easy one to pull off. But the railway in its current location is the worst of all possible options, from almost all perspectives.

This isn’t about train noise, or catering to wealthy bluff landowners. If the project succeeds, safety will be improved. Efficiency of transport will be improved. Railway maintenance costs will decrease. And, as a bonus, we will end up with a community treasure to rival the Stanley Park seawall – with better amenities at both ends.

It’s time to put aside negativism and embrace this vision.

John Drent, Surrey

• • •

My, that was a real dog-and-pony show, at the recent meeting regarding the train track realignment for the White Rock and Ocean Park elites.

I guess an election must be coming soon?

I notice on the City of Surrey’s cyberlink, the video shuts off as soon as the first question comes up regarding why the cities are to pay the $400-500-million cost to relocate the tracks. Very funny, Mayor Watts!

I think if people refuse to obey the safety rules, and walk along the rail tracks without paying attention, that is their own problem. If the track foundations or infrastructure are faulty, then go after the owner – the railway company. You can sue them, you know.

I moved to the Morgan Creek area eight years ago specifically to get away from all the railway noise etc. in my old neighbourhood of Fraser Heights. I bought, knowing there were no train tracks in my area. Now, White Rock and Ocean Park residents – who bought their homes knowing full well the train tracks were in their area – expect me to sit back and allow them to relocate the train tracks to my area? Not a chance.

Furthermore, they want my taxes to rise to pay for their relocation costs. Not a chance.  I and the 99 per cent of Surrey residents completely disagree with a track relocation that favours only the one per cent.

I understand Watts must be seen to be doing something for the unhappy, noisy elites in White Rock and Ocean Park, but not at my or the rest of Surrey’s expense.

A. Rose, Surrey

• • •

Is there any reason that coal trains from the U.S. cannot use the tracks coming up from the Seattle/Tacoma area and crossing the border at Sumas, then join into the mainline, which already carries coal through the Cloverdale area to Roberts Bank?

This line actually joins into the line from White Rock.

All hazardous or polluting cargo  – coal, gasoline, crude, propane, chemicals, etc. – should be required to take this route. Passenger trains and general cargo could continue along the waterfront, if necessary.

This would protect the environmentally sensitive waterfront of Boundary Bay, Crescent Beach, White Rock, Semiahmoo Bay, Blaine, Birch Bay, etc. In particular, a coal spill below the White Rock/Crescent Beach bluffs would be a disaster. It would take years to recover.

As everyone knows, just by looking at a train, they all use each others’ lines all the time. Just come up through Sumas, head west on CPR/BCR lines and on to Roberts Bank/Surrey Fraser Dock. It would totally avoid the ecologically sensitive waterfront.

John Williams, White Rock

 

 

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