A freight train heads into White Rock after crossing the Canada/U.S. border.

A freight train heads into White Rock after crossing the Canada/U.S. border.

EDITORIAL: Wrong route

White Rock and Surrey mayors would do better to lead the call for nationwide rail reform, lest they be accused of NIMBYism, writes PAN.

The number of objections to having trains run along the Semiahmoo Peninsula’s waterfront is growing, with the mayors of White Rock and Surrey now joining forces to push for relocation of the rail line.

Dangerous cargo, unstable bluffs, pedestrian safety, ‘landlocked’ neighbourhoods and fugitive coal dust are each being cited as reason enough to move the BNSF tracks. Throw in diesel exhaust, noise pollution and concerns that the tracks don’t follow a direct route, and collectively the issues are being described by some leaders as the “perfect storm.”

And we, the taxpayers, are being asked to discuss whether such action – estimated to cost anywhere from $350-500 million – is worthy of consideration.

But before investing even in research, it costs nothing to parse the reasons, separating potential tragedies unique to the Semiahmoo Peninsula from more universal concerns, as well as from the mere inconveniences that have grown from having a century of rail here.

Otherwise, critics will dismiss this issue as pure NIMBYism.

For this reason, we suggest removing arguments that exist for other communities or that would simply move problems to them.

Coal dust? Horn blasts? Level crossings? Not overly welcome here, but likely not anywhere.

The concern in Crescent Beach moves beyond inconvenience – when one considers a derailed train could block both exit routes – but, frankly, outsiders must find it odd believing this is a major fear, when residents have had time enough in the past 100 years to move on.

And as for there being more direct routes, BNSF will no doubt take this concern on its behalf under advisement.

For some proponents of change, the final straw was last summer’s Lac-Mégantic tragedy, in which a runaway freight train carrying crude oil rolled downhill into the town centre and derailed, killing dozens.

And, yes, such an occurrence here would be catastrophic. As it would in neighbouring Cloverdale or Langley – where freight trains run more frequently.

But unless one were to make the squalid argument that tragedy here is somehow worse than in other areas, citing Lac-Mégantic for anything less than nationwide rail reform seems myopic, at best.

In fact, the only substantial argument unique to the Peninsula is the fear of unstable bluffs.

If the bluffs are at risk, we suggest our leaders table the debate and act. Now.

If they’re safe, we suggest the mayors move on, as their actions are only giving their supporters false hope.