White Rock railway relocation could take years to be approved

WHITE ROCK — Council and residents got a clearer picture of the steps needed in order to proceed with an official bid to have White Rock’s rail line relocated from the waterfront.

In a presentation to council, rail expert and transportation consultant Mary Jane Bennett went into detail about what the city needs to do next if they intend to move forward with the relocation bid.

Likening the Railway Relocation and Crossing Act to an expropriation process, Bennett said that the rail operator in question, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, must not gain or lose financially from the relocation of the railway. The process must also occur at no net cost to the railway, and White Rock must obtain consent from all municipalities involved, meaning Surrey.

Looking at a 1987 case in Regina where it took five years for that to city have their relocation bid approved, Bennett said White Rock’s case should be a less complicated matter.

“It was five years until the agency gave green light for that to proceed and the first shovel in the ground was two years after that order,” said Bennett, noting Regina’s matter was complicated due to the relocation of a huge rail yard on top of two rail lines. “This is just a line, so it is of a less complicated nature."

White Rock must now come to an agreement with Surrey and the provincial government before moving forward.

“Ten years ago, two freight trains a day passed over the line; today twenty trains travel the line,” wrote Bennett in her report. “Every means to enhance safety—including whistling, tunnels, speed reduction, pedestrian warning signals and fencing—has failed. There have been 28 deaths and injuries on the tracks and nine significant mudslides. The lumber and cedar shingle shipments of years past have been replaced with shipments of dangerous goods like chlorine, hydrochloric acid, sodium hydrochloric acid and liquefied natural gas.

“As long as the line bisects the White Rock community, the safety issues will not dissipate. Rail relocation is needed.”

@QuestionChris

cpoon@thenownewspaper.com

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