Debris across the train tracks in South Surrey was photographed by a local resident on Jan. 25.

Debris across the train tracks in South Surrey was photographed by a local resident on Jan. 25.

White Rock mayor tracks nearby slides

Incidents along South Surrey tracks last month strengthen argument for track relocation: Baldwin

Recent slides that have interrupted train operations through South Surrey are strengthening the resolve of officials in White Rock to have the waterfront tracks relocated.

“There continue to be slides there and they’re pretty serious ones,” Mayor Wayne Baldwin told Peace Arch News Friday. “Had a train been going by while the slide occurred, it could have been derailed.”

BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas, however, described the recent incidents as “nothing really major.”

“There’s been no significant slides up there… no blocking events,” he told PAN. “We had three in January, but they were minor events. We were able to readily remove those and continue with freight service.”

Melonas confirmed there had been a 48-hour moratorium on passenger-train service “about two weeks ago” due to heavy rainfall.

Baldwin said the city was alerted to the latest slide on Jan. 27, by a Crescent Beach resident who took photos of debris across the tracks two days earlier. That BNSF did not advise the local fire department is a concern, the mayor said.

Fire Chief Phil Lemire said too that he “would certainly expect to be notified” of any incident impacting rail movement in White Rock.

However, Melonas said such notice is determined by each situation.

“We would advise them if there was a slide of significance,” he said. “We’re all about safety.”

Baldwin said he raised the issue with PAN in an effort to keep the relocation effort top-of-mind in the community. The latest slide incidents confirm the possibility of a derailment is not a thing of the past, he said.

“We just wanted to make sure that the notion it’s still a concern is there,” Baldwin said.

While the work towards relocation has been tempered by the current focus on the TransLink referendum, Baldwin said he has had meetings with officials of neighbouring municipalities – including the mayor of Blaine, Wash. – regarding the issue, and more are planned.

“We’re still trying to meet with different agencies,” he said. “Try to get some political support behind it.”

An official application under the Railway Relocation and Crossing Act has yet to be made.

Council voted last September to spend up to $20,000 to have a consultant look into that process.

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