Alex Browne photo Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner responds to questions from the capacity crowd at the rail safety forum at White Rock Community Centre on Friday.

Alex Browne photo Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner responds to questions from the capacity crowd at the rail safety forum at White Rock Community Centre on Friday.

White Rock rail forum leads to renewed calls for relocation

Upgrading safety is not enough say local politicians

A public rail forum hosted by the City of White Rock Friday brought together local politicians and some 200 concerned citizens who reaffirmed the need for a study of relocating train tracks off the waterfront.

The meeting was attended by Robyn O’Brien Stroud – mother of Jack Stroud, the 15-year-old who died in July when he was struck by a passenger train near Crescent Beach. Although O’Brien Stroud did not speak publicly, her presence – and that of friends and supporters – gave testimony to the human cost of a railway line so close to human habitation.

The panel – chaired by White Rock council incumbent Grant Meyer and including retiring White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin and retiring Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, as well as South Surrey-White Rock MP Gordon Hogg, Surrey-White Rock MLA Tracy Redies and lawyer and rail-relocation expert Mary-Jane Bennett – was adamant that efforts would persuade the provincial and federal governments to help fund a long-planned rail-relocation study.

Although Hogg came bearing gifts from the federal government – a $1.63 million-plus commitment to five White Rock and Surrey infrastructure projects to increase safety of the BNSF line – speakers indicated agreement that this was a first step only.

Baldwin said his council would move forward on work to upgrade crossings and safety bells and whistles that could reduce the need for train horns. But while the work would mean, “safer crossings and allow people to get a better night’s sleep,” Baldwin said, “it’s a stop-gap measure – it’s not the end result.”

He said he has been heartened by agreements between the province and the U.S. to move forward with high-speed rail, and that he believes that a twinning of the route up Highway 99 could take dangerous goods off the waterfront.

Making a case for a more economical route would be key to moving ahead with relocation, he said.

“If we can prove there is an economic benefit to rail relocation, then BNSF will pay the bulk of (the costs)” he said.

Mayor Linda Hepner said that while Surrey has renewed its call for a 10 m.p.h. train limit in Crescent Beach, she feels climate change and shoreline erosion will inevitably lead to consideration of route relocation.

For their part, Redies and Hogg vowed to keep up pressure on Premier John Horgan and federal Minister of Transport Marc Garneau to come through with funding for the joint White Rock and Surrey study of relocation.

Hogg stressed the importance of unified action in moving forward to relocation, noting that ‘facts’ cited on different sides of the issue – including the BNSF’s beliefs about the safety of the line – are difficult to reconcile.

The forum also heard from Eric Seiz, who has done much to document photographically the impact of slides and other incidents on the rail line, and frequent White Rock council critic Roderick Louis, who loudly berated Baldwin and Hepner for waiting for federal and provincial funding to initiate a relocation study, claiming that both Surrey and White Rock have had ample financial resources to do the work since the cities first discussed it at a public forum in 2013.

Hepner and Baldwin argued, however, that federal and provincial authorities must be involved in the work for it to have a chance to succeed.

Bennett noted that in addition to 18 track-covered mud slides impacting the rail route since 2014, there have been eight ‘undesired emergency braking’ incidents (UDEs) with trains over the last four years in the Crescent Beach area.

Such braking produces extreme lateral forces on heavily-loaded trains in curving downhill routes, she said, and, coupled with worn rails, are what Train Magazine has referred to as a “recipe for disaster” mirroring conditions of derailments of dangerous goods in the Chalk River derailment of 2000, and the Brighton, Ontario derailment of 2009.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Gurinder Mann. (Submitted photo)
Surrey man receives prestigious restorative justice award

East Newton resident Gurinder Mann one of five to receive a Community Safety and Crime Prevention Award

TEASE PHOTO: Teens at the Bumpers dance club in Whalley in the 1980s, in a photo posted to the "Bumpers / The Zone OFFICIAL Party Page" on Facebook.com.
SURREY NOW & THEN: Bumpers and other teen dance clubs were big in the 1980s

A weekly look back at Surrey-area landmark sites and events

An example of a Surrey Police cruiser, showcased at Mayor Doug McCallum’s State of the City Address at Civic Hotel in May of 2019. (File photo: Amy Reid)
Surrey Police Service looking to hire in-house lawyer

Solicitor to work within Office of the Chief Constable, serve on internal and external committees to ‘represent the SPS’s interests’

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Sources White Rock/South Surrey Food Bank is located at 2356 156 St. (File photo)
Door-to-door canvassers not working on behalf of Sources Food Bank, says manager

Accredited White Rock, South Surrey, Langley food bank does not canvas for donations

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Police in Vancouver looking for male suspect who allegedly spat and attacked a store manager for not wearing a mask, at 7-Eleven near Alma Street and West 10th Avenue just before noon on Dec. 17, 2020. (Vancouver police handout)
VIDEO: Man spits on 7-Eleven manager over mask rule, sparking Vancouver police probe

‘Unfortunately, the store manager sustained a cut to his head during the assault’

The Vancouver-based SAR team successfully rescued two lost snowshoers off of the west side of Tim Jones Peak in the early morning of Monday, Jan. 19. (North Shore Rescue photo)
B.C.’s busiest SAR team raises alarm after 2021 begins with fatality, multiple rescues

‘People beyond ski resort areas of Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress go without cell reception,’ SAR warns

Competitors make their way through the course at the 2019 Canadian Cross Country Championships, which was hosted by Abbotsford in 2019. (File photo)
Abbotsford to host 2023 Canadian Cross Country Championships

Clearbrook Park last hosted the event in 2019, Ottawa hosting 2021 and 2022 races

Officers investigate the scene after a pedestrian was struck and killed on Friday morning. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Male pedestrian, 37, killed in Abbotsford after being struck by vehicle

Collision took place in 31800 block of South Fraser Way on Friday morning

Most Read