SOUTH SURREY – When two trains travelling through Crescent Beach this past summer came uncoupled and blocked access to the community, Erik Seiz was concerned. When two more trains recently became stalled on the tracks over the course of two weeks, Seiz is worried the issue is par for the course.
The most recent incidents took place on Dec. 27 and Jan. 5, according to Seiz. During the latter incident, he said access to the beach community was blocked for up to four hours after a train became uncoupled. The former incident was also an uncoupling, but did not block beach access.
As president of Crescent Beach Property Owners’ Association, Seiz has been paying careful attention to the rail issues in his community and has singled out a certain curve in the track that seems to be where the uncouplings occur.
The area in question is a curve north of the Nicomekl Bridge. While trains are to go 10 miles per hour (16 km/h) around the Nicomekl area, they are allowed to increase their speed shortly afterward. It’s then that Seiz believes the trains are coming uncoupled, leading to stalls.
“Why does a coupling break? Because of stress and why would there be stress? Because of braking,” said Seiz about the summer incidents. “So if the coupling is going to break, we’d like to see it in a place where the train doesn’t end up sitting across the crossings.”
To that end, Seiz hoped trains would retain the reduced speed shortly after the curve.
“You have this sort of statistical thing showing up, they keep hoping it won’t come up again,” he said. “Unless you do something very explicit like slow down before the curve and come through at a consistent rate, you’re always going to have this situation.”
Gus Melonas, of rail operator BNSF, said the company is aware of, and is reviewing, the recent situations, but said the incidents were not related to speed or curves.
“Speed, curve is not an issue for safe train ops at this location,” he said.
A Transport Canada spokesperson issued a statement saying the government is aware of concerns at the site.
“Our inspectors have reviewed this location, and have asked BNSF to develop and implement a plan to address the concerns,” said the spokesperson. “Transport Canada will continue to monitor this location, and take further action to protect public safety, if necessary.”