On the same weekend that 15 CP railcars derailed outside Banff, a BNSF train broke apart while negotiating the curve at the south entrance to Crescent Beach.
The failure occurred at 10:15 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 27, and marks the third time a BNSF train has split apart at that location in 2014. The previous failures occurred June 26 and Aug. 2, blocking access to the community for 45 and 10 minutes.
Saturday’s train was stopped within Crescent Beach for 90 minutes, but the north crossing at Beecher Street was able to remain open, while the train was put back together. And on
The latest break follows deliberate efforts by Transport Canada and BNSF to try to improve the alarmingly high failure rate at this location.
After a similar failure on the same south curve in 2010, BNSF explained to Surrey mayor and council in a report that “such failures occur approximately once per year, system-wide throughout North America, with the probability of this happening again at this location being very remote.”
By BNSF’s own metrics, the south Crescent Beach track curve might just be the most dangerous section of rail in North America.
Compounding the high failure statistics, the 100-plus car trains that are splitting apart at the south curve are also simultaneously travelling on the edge of the bay, under a 100-foot bluff, within a residential community, and while bisecting the south beach level crossing.
Trains currently reduce speed inside the community, while still wrapped around the south Crescent Beach curve. A solution has been proposed by the Crescent Beach Property Owners Association for BNSF trains to reduce their speed before the curve, and therefore before entering the community.
The proposal does not eliminate the probability of more failures, however, it helps move the safety risks away from the popular south beach recreation area, and from homes which line the track where the trains are now breaking apart.
The cost for expanding the current speed boundary would add three minutes to train-travel time.
The CBPOA proposal is currently under review by Transport Canada and BNSF. It has also been shared with the city of Surrey, and the offices of provincial Transportation Minister Todd Stone and South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale MP Russ Hiebert.
I am optimistic that BNSF will decide that a few extra minutes are worth the vastly improved safety and proximity benefits to our thousands of beach visitors and local residents.
The relatively low price to the railway seems reasonable, in light of the dramatic increase in the number of long, multi-engine trains that now travel the 100-year-old bay corridor with ever-increasing frequency.
Erik Seiz, Crescent Beach Property Owners Association