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Could the Quay rail operations move?
Last Thursday’s town hall on rail-related issues raised the tantalizing possibility for some people that the rail operations could be one day moved to a Port Coquitlam sorting yard.
“It’s just five kilometres away,” said Brian Allen, chair of the Quayside Community Board’s rail noise committee, in an interview following the event at the Inn at the Quay, organized by Burnaby-New Westminster MP Peter Julian and attended by more than 50 people.
“Apparently the yard can handle all the traffic—so why not move it there?”
Allen said under the Railway Relocation Act, the federal transportation minister has the power to move train operations, and when you’ve got another yard with the space that is not next to residential development, he believes it’s worth considering.
“In this day and age, especially in light of Lac Mégantic, he have to give that thought,” Allen said.
But Coun. Chuck Puchmayr, a co-chair of the city’s railway citizen advisory committee, said it doesn’t make logistical or jurisdictional sense to move the sorting to the Canadian Pacific yards in an industrial area of PoCo even though noise would not be a factor there.
Puchmayr said most of the goods being sorted at Southern Rail’s New Westminster yard don’t belong to CP. In addition it would be inefficient because a high percentage of the goods, which originate from Queensborough and Annacis Island, would have to return to New Westminster because they are destined for markets south of the Fraser River and would need to use the railway crossing that runs parallel to the Pattullo Bridge.
“Why would you move all those goods to Port Coquitlam for a later move over the Pattullo Bridge? It’s not logical,” said Puchmayr.
In fact, he pointed out, such a move would mean more nighttime shunting noise and switching affecting other areas of New Westminster.
“It would increase the problem. There would be shorter trains but more of them would be running through Sapperton, and then coming back again. It would be an increase in volume and doubling of the volume,” said Puchmayr. “Where that notion came from, I don’t know. There have been some false hopes thrown out there over the last few years. Our job is to analyze the logistics of all the moves. It is incumbent on [the city] not to be merchants of hysteria but the merchants of change.”
Puchmayr said the city committee will continue to work to improve whistle cessation and hazardous material movement through the city.
Allen said the town hall session on Thursday was broad ranging and covered many topics.
“It was a very positive meeting,” he said from his home as train horns were heard in the background. “It was positive, constructive. If we can work together, there’s a good chance progress can be made.”
A recent Canadian Transportation Agency ruling of a QCB appeal that had attempted, but ultimately failed, to prevent the railways from operating at night was also discussed.
“The Quayside board has done all it can in this matter. We made it clear that now it’s the city’s responsibility to take the leadership and move forward,” said Allen.
He noted the city’s advisory committee which includes railway and community representatives, has had only two meetings, both of them in-camera. He’d like them open to the public.
“It’s too early to tell if [the committee] will be effective or not.”
– with file from Chris Bryan