Elected representatives of Peninsula stakeholders met with federal Ministry of Transportation officials to discuss rail safety less than a week before Wednesday’s tragedy that claimed the life of a 15-year-old in Crescent Beach.
South Surrey-White Rock MP Gordie Hogg told Peace Arch News Tuesday that he felt the June 28 Vancouver meeting – called at the request of the ministry – was an important step forward in addressing issues around waterfront rail safety and rail relocation, long a talking point for White Rock and South Surrey politicians and something Hogg has worked toward as both MP and former MLA for the area.
“It’s the first time all the significant elected individuals were around the same table,” he said, noting that participants in the meeting, chaired by Pacific Region assistant deputy minister Robert Dick, included Surrey-White Rock MLA Tracy Redies, Semiahmoo First Nation councillor Joanne Charles, White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin and Surrey Coun. Judy Villeneuve.
BNSF Railway was also “well-represented.”
Hogg noted that rail relocation has to be considered a long-term objective – “(Dick) said this was not something that would happen quickly, since there are major costs that will be associated with it.”
But Hogg said he and Redies agreed they would continue to look for opportunities in discussions between the province and Washington state about establishing a high-speed rail corridor – considered the best bet in relocating rail traffic off the waterfront areas.
Among safety concerns cited by participants were increased rail traffic; trains blocking off Crescent Beach for extended periods; slope stability and rising tides and sea levels.
Action items included setting up “table-top exercises” – in which all would participate – to study strategies for dealing with a potential major emergency.