New Westminster train bridge could be closed two to four weeks: Southern Railway

The gravel barge that collided into a railway bridge in New Westminster on June 26 has been removed, and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada has launched a preliminary investigation to asses damage to the bridge and to flag possible safety concerns.

"We've been on the site, we've taken pictures, we've spoken to the railway folks," said Greg Stewart, an investigator with the board.

No preliminary results will be available until barge and tugboat crew are interviewed later this week, according to Stewart. But he added that the damage does seem to be significant.

Frank Butzelaar, president of Southern Railway of BC, which operates the bridge, said that the bridge could remain closed for two to four weeks while its girders undergo structural repairs.

Southern Railway delivers products to 30 companies on Annacis Island.

"We've come up with a rerouting solution," said Butzelaar, explaining that Southern's train traffic now uses tracks on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Rail to Tilbury. The cargo is then barged to Annacis Island.

"Although it's no long-term solution," said Butzelaar, "it works for pretty much any product except automobiles."

He confirmed that a Southern Rail employee who witnessed the collision was interviewed by TSB last week.

If the damage and safety concerns are bad enough, TSB will follow up with a fuller investigation and report.

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