Safety urged at railway crossings

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Canada’s railways are reminding the public to obey the rules at level crossings and resist the urge to trespass on railway property.

This week is railway safety week and Canadian National is among the companies ramping up a safety campaign. Much of the campaign is focused on encouraging proper behaviour at crossings, said Const. Robert Greer, a community services officer with Canadian National.

Uncontrolled crossings are to be treated like a yield sign, whereas those equipped with lights and bells are like a stop sign. When the lights are activated, motorists should come to a complete stop and proceed only when the train is past or at a complete stop, Greer said. At crossings with gates and lights, don’t go around the gates, he said.

“That’s where we have lots of issues, people running the red lights,” he said. “They don’t want to wait for the train and they scoot in front of the train. That’s where we get the mishaps, the collisions.”

In Alberta, the fine for running a controlled crossing with gates and lights is $230 plus three demerits. The fine is $287 at uncontrolled crossings.

In 2009, there were 256 grade crossing and railway trespassing accidents across Canada, causing 71 deaths and 36 serious injuries, according to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. Trespassing remains the leading cause of rail-related deaths in Canada, and last year these fatalities increased by almost 10 per cent over the number in 2008.

All railway property is private property, Greer said, and the fine for trespassing is $287.

A common trouble spot in St. Albert is the trestle bridge near Lions Park.

“We have lots of issues there with kids walking on the bridge, taking a shortcut across the river,” Greer said. “That is trespassing. It’s foolish too, because if a train comes and they’re on the bridge, where do you go?”

He didn’t have statistics for the area but said calls aren’t rare.

“We get calls there quite often,” he said. “Every now and then the train will come through and there will be somebody in the middle of the bridge.”

St. Albert RCMP doesn’t respond to many train-related calls but the detachment supports any message about train and rail safety, said spokesperson Cpl. Laurel Kading.

“Many people have a lot of misperceptions about how quickly trains can stop. They think that if they were on the line that they’ve got lots of time to get out of the way of the train and it’s not so,” she said.

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