Letters to the Editor

LETTERS: Rail solutions well within Peninsula’s reach

Letter writers offer a number of concerns and suggestions to the issue of train safety on the Semiahmoo Peninsula, much discussed in recent weeks.  - Tracy Holmes photo
Letter writers offer a number of concerns and suggestions to the issue of train safety on the Semiahmoo Peninsula, much discussed in recent weeks.
— image credit: Tracy Holmes photo

Editor:

Re: Mayor warns of federal indifference to rail fears, July 10.

The recent White Rock city forum on rail safety was informative. It seems to me at least that a number of conclusions can be drawn.

First, there are a number of health and safety concerns. Twenty trains a day means at least 50 diesel locomotives a day spewing diesel particulates into the air, which, together with coal dust, represents a health hazard. Moreover, the transport of dangerous substances over a line subject to landslides has the potential for catastrophic human and environmental accidents.

Second, the argument that the listing of dangerous goods is withheld to confound terrorists is illogical. A catastrophe can take place without the aid of terrorists. In fact, the withholding of information is likely to bring about the very consequences of a terrorist attack.

Third, the fact that BNSF cannot obtain the insurance required to meet the costs of human and environmental damage means the federal government is on the hook for huge cleanup costs, as we have seen happen at Lac Mégantic.

Fourth, while the argument that White Rock/South Surrey is not alone in facing these kind of rail hazards ignores the fact that the Peninsula is not only an area of outstanding natural beauty and is particularly environmentally sensitive, it is also situated geographically so that emergency remediation is extremely difficult.

By all means, require the federal government to establish relatively safe routes for rail transport of dangerous goods across Canada, but we shouldn’t hold our breath that this is likely to happen.

It has been pointed out that rail relocation is too expensive to seriously consider. However, the long-term health costs and costs to tourism and real estate – not to mention the costs of an accident – would likely far exceed the cost of relocation.

This is especially true given that an alternative rail system already exists north of the border. It is not the line that has to be relocated, it is the trains, and the cost would be borne by BNSF, which would have to pay for the use of CN/CP lines.

This seems to me to be a negotiable solution if there is the political will to explore it. It is likely the political clout needed to bring this issue to federal politicians would be more likely if White Rock, protected by a functional ward system of representation, was part of a larger and more effective local government – the City of Surrey.

Peter Ferris, Surrey

 

Re: ‘Worst trespassing in the northwest,’ June 19 et al.

Transport Canada has done us a favour.

It is clear that BNSF rail traffic and the population of this Peninsula are both increasing. It is also a fact that too many people fail to take proper precautions when crossing the tracks.

This is our problem. We have a rail line in our front yard. It is the responsibility of the people of the City of White Rock to come up with a solution that is viable for all parties.

The initial solution is obvious and relatively easy:

• Delay all lower-priority spending, including “Johnston Road beautification,” “Centre Street road allowance,” sidewalks, bronze statues etc.

• Immediately undertake the construction of pedestrian underpasses, and/or bridges, across the BNSF railway, at three West Beach and three East Beach locations – no six-foot fences required.

• Construct two larger underpasses, suitable to accommodate kayak trailers, paddleboard trundlers and manually launched boats – one at West Beach and one at East Beach.

Next, we must pursue longer-term solutions:

• Build an urban transit sky tram from uptown to the beach, spanning the BNSF adjacent to the pier. The base station to include a pedestrian bridge over the rail. Completion date June 2019.

• Invite tenders to build and operate a commercial zip line from North Bluff Road to Bayview Park, via Ruth Johnson Park, and Duprez Street. Completion date September 2016.

• Forget about rail relocation, unless you have a solution that will cost BNSF nothing, reduce their operating costs and be welcomed by the folks on the new route who covet our rail line.

With the above solutions in place, there will be no need for BNSF engineers to blow the horns, except when cheering children on the beach.

David Edwards, White Rock

 

Re: Loud reaction to train concerns, July 17 letters.

Two letters in the PAN referred to decisions that were made a long time ago about accepting the trains in our area – either referring to those who bought here after the trains appeared or said yes to the building of the tracks in the first place.

We have no control in hindsight about the people way back who made unwise decisions and could not look ahead or have any idea how attractive living in South Surrey and White Rock would be. There was no chance of seeing a couple of steam engines turn into an invasion of massive diesel engines pulling huge snakes behind them.

Over the years, all kinds of decisions made in the past have either been rectified or changed. Nothing is written in stone, and we should have the right and the power as voting citizens to make right mistakes from the past.

I can see letter-writer Anna Dean not wanting the train removed from this hugely populated area to over her way, of course, but that is where the train was in the first place. We just want to send it home, as it’s been away a long time and craves for a quieter area – away from all those thousands of people that just want to enjoy jewels of the nature along our waterfronts in peace, and away from constant danger.

Brian Lauder, Surrey

• • •

Regarding Emerson Reid’s letter to the editor, prior to 1909 there was a plan to build a deep sea port where the White Rock Museum is today.

A copy of the plot plan for this port is in the White Rock archives in the museum. I know this because I gave it to them.

Then in 1909, the Victoria Railroad and Steamship Company purchased a strip of land through the Semiahmoo First Nation’s reserve for $1,250, which then made that strip private property. I know this to be also true because I had a copy of the original bill of sale, and I gave that to the White Rock archives as well.

Along with that, I turned over a copy of a letter signed by Sir Wilfred Laurier, the prime minister at the time and the guy on the $5 bill, asking Parliament to put a rush on approval of the sale.

The next time someone says the railroad was built to service a few shacks in White Rock, tell them that is an idea, too… well, you get the idea.

Barry Gaudin, White Rock

 

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