Residents, farmers and business owners are tired of waiting for the trains at Haslett Road near Heffley Creek.
Nu Leaf Produce Market vans routinely get stuck on one side, wasting hours of staff time with fresh produce on board. Farmers and residents are worried about safety while stuck behind the tracks with no alternative exit. And contractors have no way of planning pricey jobs. They’re wasting time and money and feel unsafe.
“I’ve got 30 people working [and living] here,” Dhaliwal Green Acres Farm owner Mota Dhaliwal told KTW. “Sometimes we’ve got emergencies. Sometimes we’ve got problems. What are we going to do?”
Dhaliwal has owned the produce farm on Haslett Road for three decades and has noticed the issue of trains blocking the crossing worsen.
He said he has waited for up to four hours for trains to move. In addition to his farm, Heffley Farm (unincorporated and owned by Dhaliwal’s relatives), two homes (unrelated to the family), a recreational island and the Tolko chip yard are south of the tracks, with up to 50 people on that side at any given time, KTW was told.
Tolko has a private crossing, inaccessible to the public.
Nicole Mulcahy has lived on Haslett Road for 25 years and said trains are longer lately, resulting in more blockages.
“Sure, we’ve had issues over the years with the railroads, but nothing compares to, say, the last six months,” Mulcahy said. “
The trains are longer and we have a longer wait. If you’re planning to go to town or something, you really have to think about it now. And lord, if anything happens. You’re really in a bad way. No other access to get out.”
Dhaliwal’s nephew, Herman Hothi, co-owns Nu Leaf Produce Market, which picks up produce from the two family farms.
When drivers get stuck for two to three hours at a time, fresh produce sits in a vehicle, wages are eaten up and staff are left pondering basic needs, such as where to go to the bathroom. Hothi called the situation “terrible.”
“Between two hours and 20 minutes, four out of five days I was stuck,” he said of his experience last week. “And that was just my luck. It’s not like it’s one train a day.
“Sometimes it’s five or six trains. I’m not crossing that every 10 minutes. I’m only crossing that two times a day.”
Built Solid Construction owner Josh Huber has been working in the area for the past three months. He said he called CN’s 1-800-number listed at the crossing ahead of time before a recent concrete pour to prevent interruption.
He needed 130 metres of concrete for a barn pad. Twenty-six concrete trucks were scheduled and concrete has to be poured continuously.
“We got two trucks unloaded,” Huber said. “I’m waiting for another truck, waiting, waiting, waiting, look over and there’s a train blocking. Had that concrete job been compromised — which it was close — that’s thousands and thousands of dollars lost because they couldn’t get here.”
City of Kamloops engineering manager Deven Matkowski said the crossing at Haslett Road is private, meaning the issue is essentially between the landowners and the railway company. However, the city can take on the crossing as public — at a cost. The city would be on the hook for an annual fee and infrastructure, such as warning lights and crossing signals
Matkowski said the annual cost would be in the six figures.
The city rejected a request in the past to make the crossing public, but Matkowski said a re-evaluation is underway following a subsequent request.
“We’ll be looking at how many people utilize the crossing, does it meet the typical warrant for a public crossing and would it make any sense for us to go to council and tell them that we should make it a public crossing?” Matkowski said.
Dhaliwal said the issue should not come down to cost, noting he has paid about $300,000 in property taxes during the past 30 years.
“That’s just him and then there’s other residents here, too, right?” Hothi said.
Reached for comment by phone, KTW received the following email statement from CN:
“Operations and the length of the trains can vary from time to time, but trains are not especially longer.
“As the public crossing you mentioned is located near the private crossing, it is not possible for our trains to pull up farther.
“That being said, we are currently trying to minimize the impact on local residents. CN would like to apologize for the inconveniences caused.”
The public crossing referenced is the one at the city-owned Tournament Capital Ranch.