Surrey council has thrown its support behind efforts to slow the speed of freight trains travelling along the Crescent Beach waterfront.
Council voted unanimously Monday to endorse a motion by Coun. Judy Villeneuve and Mayor Linda Hepner calling for an extension of the restricted-speed zone that applies to the Nicomekl swing bridge.
If supported by railway owner BNSF and Transport Canada, it would reduce speeds along the stretch of track that runs south from the bridge to the 24 Avenue stairs, to 10 miles per hour from 30.
Villeneuve described the motion as “a great tool for people to use as we advocate for change.”
“It gives us one more tool to say we’re committed as a council and a community to working on this issue,” she told Peace Arch News Wednesday.
She said the motion will be sent to BNSF and Transport Canada.
Crescent Beach Property Owners’ Association president Erik Seiz described the city’s stand on the issue as “quite fantastic.”
It strengthens ongoing efforts to improve safety along the rail line, he said. At the same time, he acknowledged the city’s powers over the issue are limited.
“Definitely, it does not mean that anything will change because it’s a federal thing. (But) I think it’s a very big step,” Seiz said.
“If they’re willing to get behind it, then it can move up to the next level.”
The motion cites recent incidents of freight trains decoupling on the “south Crescent Beach curve” that have resulted in blocked access to and from the community. In one incident, access was blocked for four hours, it states.
It also notes a four-fold increase in freight traffic along the rail line since 2007.
The push for speed reduction is to help ensure safety until the ultimate goal of relocating the rail line is achieved, said Villeneuve, who is a Crescent Beach resident herself.
“We’ve made a commitment to do everything we can,” she said.
BNSF spokesperson Gus Melonas told PAN the request would be reviewed. He assured that safety is the company’s top priority.
“We have found that our set speeds through the corridor are safe and efficient for the movement of all commodities handled,” he said.
“Our safe operating record speaks for itself.”
Seiz, however, said it’s only a matter of time before an incident with tragic consequences occurs.
“If you look at the statistics, it’s obvious what should be happening,” he said.
“It becomes negligent to pretend this isn’t an issue.”
He noted that reducing the speed limit along the South Surrey waterfront would only add three minutes to the time it takes a freight train to travel through the area, but it would increase safety significantly.