Several perceived effects of rail transport to public health and safety are addressed by writers of letters to the editor.

LETTERS: Assessing the real rail dangers


Re: All coal concerns addressed, Aug. 26.; Train cargo…, Aug. 21; Safety should come first, Aug. 21; More coal…, Aug. 28.


Re: All coal concerns addressed, Aug. 26.

Where are the regulatory bodies in Canada that consider the public interest?

The statement from Port Metro declaring all concerns about the Fraser Surrey Docks thermal-coal project to have been addressed is just words on a page. It is not supported by Port Metro’s actions and obvious priorities:

• Port Metro was created by the federal government in 2008 by the amalgamation of three smaller port authorities. The resulting ‘efficiency’ has meant a loss of local representation and a loss of good working relationships with municipalities near the ports.

• Port Metro has maintained an exceptionally close relationship with Fraser Surrey Docks and other coal-industry players. It sponsored the Coal Association of Canada’s 2013 conference, but attempted to keep this secret because of fears about public backlash. Apparently, the problem was not its own conflict of interest but the fact the public might become aware of it.

• Port Metro allowed Fraser Surrey Docks to hold open houses rather than public hearings about the project, despite the fact that such open houses tend to serve as promotion opportunities for industry rather than as opportunities for public input.

• Port Metro did not question the adequacy of the environmental impact assessment hastily done for Fraser Surrey Docks by SNC Lavalin, a company that has been exposed for corrupt practices internationally. Port Metro paid little attention to the flaws in the EIA pointed out by medical officers and environmental experts.

Because of Port Metro’s decision, we can now expect the number of coal cars passing through White Rock and South Surrey to double over the next few years. Transport Canada will put even more emphasis on the protection of the trains so that they can pass more freely through this community.

Transport Canada is another one of those regulatory bodies that doesn’t regulate – note the abysmal report card drawn up for it by transportation consultant Mary Jane Bennett (Mayor warns of federal indifference to rail fears, July 10).

Not surprisingly, Port Metro reports to Transport Canada.

David Anson, White Rock

• • •

Re: Train cargo a bigger concern, Aug. 21 letters.

Letter-writer Larry Colero is correct about the dangers of derailment of hazardous chemicals on White Rock’s and South Surrey’s waterfront. A chemical spill or derailment of even one rail car risks the lives of hundreds of people living nearby, and especially those unfortunate enough to have been in the cars’ path while it derailed.

To get an idea of what toxic chemicals pass through our waterfront, next time a cargo train rolls by, read what inscriptions say on just some of the cars’ train. Some trains carry ethanol, certain types of acids, etc.

I also believe people have lost sight of the real dangerous chemicals passing through our waterfront every day, and instead, have grown disproportionately concerned about coal, particularly U.S. coal.

Most of the toxic chemicals passing through our waterfront are far more harmful than coal.

Tony Roy, White Rock

• • •

Re: Safety should come first, Aug. 21 column.

Local residents need not fear an accident of the Lac Mégantic scale in BNSF territory, with trains being operated to first-class standards.

However, despite the 18 ‘findings’ of the Transport Safety Board investigation into the Lac Mégantic derailment, the board missed the key weakness of the braking system on trains in North America – the lack of fail-safe capability. It would seem elementary that if all else fails, then brakes should be applied automatically, but slow leakage of the compressed-air system allowed the Lac Mégantic train to run away. This is an inherent failing and is compounded by the need for ‘parked’ trains to have brakes on individual cars applied by hand.

Despite all safety advances for other modes of transport, trains are still being operated using 19th century technology. An unfortunate combination of circumstances conspired to cause the Lac Mégantic disaster; the potential for runaway trains remains.

John Bliss, White Rock

• • •

Re: More coal adds to our problems, Aug. 28 letters.

Simon Clews’ letter to the editor makes me wonder just how many affected by such nightly dose of invasive train-horn sounds might have gone on to develop some medical conditions leading to premature death.

Fen Kong Liew, Surrey



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