CP Rail called The Free Press this week to tell us how concerned they are about trespassing on the railway tracks. The train drivers (engineers) and the CP police are constantly seeing residents strolling across the tracks wherever is most convenient for them. Not only is this dangerous, but it is a criminal offence, and could see the person arrested and facing court charges.
Apparently trespassers cross the tracks all the way through the downtown core of Fernie. While meeting with CP staff to discuss the problem, a man was seen crossing the tracks illegally, only about 20 metres from a proper crossing. He didn’t even look up and down the tracks to check for trains.
The problem is so bad, CP Rail are convinced it is only a matter of time before someone is hit. Freight trains travel at speeds of up to 90 km/h. It takes an average freight train, travelling at 90 km/h up to two kilometres to come to a stop in an emergency. That means that even if the engineer has spotted someone on the tracks, the chances of them being able to actually stop the train in time are small. Blowing the whistle to warn them should help get them to move off the tracks – that is if they aren’t wearing headphones.
Last year, there were 261 railway-crossing and trespassing accidents in Canada, where 78 people were killed and 53 people seriously injured as a result, according to the Railway Association of Canada (RAC).
CP has decided it is time to crack down, and police are out there handing out tickets.
It might sound like a minor thing to take a short cut home, but the potential consequences are not minor at all. A whole community is affected when someone is hit by a train, not just the family of the person who died, but the train driver and their family, plus the whole community where the accident happened.
It is definitely going to be a challenge to convince people not to take the shortest route possible, and to walk up to a designated crossing instead. Warning people about the danger doesn’t seem to be working, so maybe the threat of being handed a fine of up to $300 will. And for those that are hoping to see a whistle cessation at some point, as long as there is trespassing, the chances of getting a quieter Fernie in the future are pretty small.