Nathan Cullen demands action from transport minister on rail crossing safety

OTTAWA– Responding to ongoing instances of freight trains blocking crucial public railway crossings around the Northwest, MP Nathan Cullen took the issue to Minister of Transport Denis Lebel on Thursday, demanding action.

As traffic at the port of Prince Rupert has tripled since 2008, rail traffic in the region has skyrocketed in recent years as well, resulting in too many instances of CN freight trains stopping on public railway crossings – which are often the only roads in or out of communities – for upwards of 100 minutes.

“It’s not only a nuisance for folks who are trying to get to work or make an appointment on time,” said Cullen. “It’s becoming a safety hazard, because we’ve heard reports of people who get fed up after waiting thirty minutes or an hour, and they get out of their cars and walk between rail cars to get across. And it’s an even more serious hazard if there’s an emergency situation, and a freight train is blocking the only road in or out.”

Trains operated by CN, which can be kilometres long, have been blocking public railway crossings without just cause, and for extended periods of time, as a result of the spike in regional freight traffic. While the issue is not entirely new, the problem that the region currently faces, Cullen concluded, is that CN is ignoring public frustrations about the extended delays, and the federal government is failing in its responsibility to enforce the existing penalties.

“The Railway Safety Act says that a train cannot idle on the tracks and block a public crossing for more than five minutes, and the Minister has the power to fine CN up to $100,000 when they do this,” Cullen explained. “But we’ve seen a failure to act by CN, and a lack of enforcement from the government. The Minister has to realize that the safety and mobility of our communities is at stake, and it’s time they start enforcing the rules, and looking at new infrastructure options like new overpasses to increase access and safety.”

Cullen recommended that any citizens who encounter long delays due to a halted train on a rail crossing contact his office on the hotline at 1-888-622-0212 or by email at cullen@parl.gc.ca.

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Contact: Hugh Pouliot, nathan.cullen.a1@parl.gc.ca, 613-993-8662