CN Rail says it wants to be a good neighbour once it takes over a contract in 2021 to move coal from the Kootenays through Kamloops and to the Lower Mainland.
Last week, CN and Teck Resources announced a long-term deal for the transport of steelmaking coal between Kamloops and North Vancouver.
The deal runs from April 2021 through the end of 2026 and is expected to allow Teck to “significantly increase shipment volumes” through an expanded terminal in North Vancouver, according to a press release.
As part of the deal, CN has said it intends to spend $125 million upgrading its infrastructure between Kamloops and the Lower Mainland — which could include some improvements in city limits.
“Capital investments to the rail infrastructure include capacity upgrades for access to the North Shore in Vancouver, Kamloops interchange upgrades and other capacity upgrades to ensure seamless traffic flows,” CN spokesman Jonathan Abecassis told KTW.
Work has been ongoing at CN’s yard on the Tk’emlups reservation, where crews have been putting into place five more 12,000-foot tracks that should allow the trains to be yarded.
Steelmaking coal has previously been transported by CP from eastern B.C., through Kamloops to the Lower Mainland.
The change to CN’s contract in 2021 is expected to create additional train traffic in downtown Kamloops, especially across the Lorne Street crossing connecting CP and CN lines, a section of track that has typically not been very busy.
“CN makes every effort to be a responsible neighbour and partner in the communities where we operate,” Abecassis said.
“Mitigation measures concerning coal dust will continue and CN will work with the community on issues of concern to them, including disruptions to vehicular traffic. We will continue meeting with Kamloops and adjacent communities and engage with them.”
Under federal regulations, railways cannot block public rail crossings for more than five minutes to vehicles and pedestrians. That rule is null and void, however, when the train is moving.
Transport Canada does note railway companies must clear crossings as quickly as possible when emergency vehicles need to get through and maintains its role is to monitor rail companies for compliance of those rules through audits and inspections.
“If an inspection reveals that a company is not following the rules, Transport Canada does not hesitate to take appropriate action, which is based on the severity of the safety issue and can involve one or more of several compliance and enforcement tools,” Transport Canada stated in a email to KTW earlier this year when the issue of railway crossing delays was raised by residents in various neighbourhoods.
According to company statistics, Teck’s annual production of coal that moves from East Kootenays to Vancouver is approximately 26-million tonnes. The trains are 152 cars long (about 2.4 kilometers in length). Each train moves about 18,000 tonnes of coal.