The financial cost involved to silence whistles of passing trains has spurred disagreement between Sicamous council and local RV resort residents.
James Moon, on behalf of Silver Sands RV Resort, presented to council on April 12 about train whistles sounding near the property. At the time, Moon explained Transport Canada (TC) had changed previous rules around railroad safety, no longer requiring whistles to sound off if an automatic crossing that meets documented guidelines is in place. The Silver Sands crossing, with a bell and flashing lights, was deemed safe, said Moon.
Canadian Pacific Kansas City (since Canadian Pacific Railway merged with Kansas City Southern in April 2023, abbreviated CPKC) required a one-time safety assessment and annual insurance coverage, estimated to be around $10,000 and $550 respectively at the time. However, Moon said the assessments were not something TC required and council asked for further investigation to be done before any decisions were made.
At the June 14 committee of the whole meeting, council revisited the train whistle cessation request.
Council wanted the scope extended to include the Solsqua-Sicamous Road crossing and noted this was a district request and wasn’t attached to the original Silver Sands inquiry.
Staff said they met with CPKC on April 25 on-site to discuss what improvements would need to be made at both crossings to achieve whistle cessation. Before that, CPKC confirmed no reports of trespass were in its records at either crossing until closer to the beach. Staff said CPKC might require a fence near the beach to deter trespassing if the whistle cessation request were to go through, as a whistle would no longer warn beach goers of a train coming.
CPKC also noted its own records are kept separately from RCMP and 911 records.
It was determined a professional engineer would have to conduct an assessment, estimated to cost $17,000, according to staff. The agreement for scheduled crossing maintenance at Silver Sands was found to be $592 per month, paid for in full by the district, and for Solsqua-Sicamous Road, $653 per month, of which the district would pay half. Any improvements are also at the district’s expense, said staff. Insurance would cost $500 per year per crossing.
These costs could be incorporated into the 2024 budget, or 2023’s as an amendment, or could be paid for by residents through taxation with a bylaw. Staff added legal liability would be passed to the district with CPKC named as an additional insured.
Council was in agreement the cost was too high and it wasn’t enough of a priority to justify spending the money. The report was received for information but no further action will be taken, decided council.
James Moon responded to the decision in a letter to council, stating he and other Silver Sands residents are “disappointed and somewhat surprised at this result.”
“Transport Canada has the regulatory responsibility for railway safety,” reads Moon’s letter. He repeated TC’s finding the Silver Sands crossing is safe with lights and bells and added, “CPKC’s insistence on a safety assessment and additional insurance seems curiously out of sync with the above TC ruling.”
The letter expresses understanding for cost concerns, especially the expense of adding a fence near the beach, but notes there shouldn’t be a need for one as the probability of pedestrians crossing from the beach to town over the tracks is “extremely unlikely,” with them having to climb up a steep bank through trees.
A horn will still sound if there is ever anyone in the train’s vicinity, assured Moon.
He stressed Silver Sands owners are only asking for the crossing near the resort. The Solsqua-Sicamous request does not disturb Silver Sands residents as much, he said.
“On the CPKC mainline from Calgary to Vancouver, anti-whistling is in effect at approximately 50 crossings,” reads the letter. “Sicamous stands out as one of the few, if not the only, populated municipality that has no anti-whistling crossings.”
The letter finished asking council to review the information presented and pursue the application “in the spirit of Sicamous’ ‘Live More’ slogan.”