Trains are allowed to go 80 km/h, in the City of Lacombe, which many feel is too fast. The city has a laundry list of issues with Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (Photo by Advocate staff)

Trains are allowed to go 80 km/h, in the City of Lacombe, which many feel is too fast. The city has a laundry list of issues with Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (Photo by Advocate staff)

Lacombe frustrated with rail company foot dragging

Lack of information following derailment and cluttered right-of-way among issues frustrating council

A giant eyesore pile of railway ties, speeding trains and poor communication following a derailment are among ongoing concerns City of Lacombe has with Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd.

Frustrated by the lack of action on a host of longstanding issues, city council has asked city chief administrative officer Matthew Goudy to arrange another meeting with CPR officials to air the town’s grievances.

What council sees as a persistent lack of communication on the part of the railway company was further exasperated by a July 2 derailment in which 22 rail cars hopped the tracks, spilling tar oil used for the asphalt-making process, as well as lumber.

“There’s a growing frustration amongst a lot of council members about the way CP Rail interacts with its municipal partners,” said Goudy.

The rail company has not given the city any indication of what may have caused the derailment, said Goudy, and hopes are not high those answers will be coming.

In a statement to Black Press, CP said it has maintained regular communications with the Reeve of Lacombe County and Lacombe County staff about the derailment since the incident, which occurred on track between Blackfalds and Lacombe.

”CP has a robust community engagement program and talks regularly with communities along its lines,” the statement said. “That includes recent communication with the City of Lacombe.”

Besides the derailment, the city has a laundry list of other issues that remain unaddressed.

The stack of railway ties is two storeys high and CPR’s right-of-way is also cluttered with discarded power poles and grass and weeds have been allowed to run wild.

“It reaches a level of like six- and eight-feet tall weeds. It does lead to some fire hazards.”

The speed trains run through the community is also another irritant. Trains are allowed to go 80 km/h, which many feel is too fast on a line that runs just east of the city’s historic downtown. For a time, speeds were reduced but when railway crossings were upgraded CPR was given permission in 2013 to return to the 80 km/h speed limit.

Another issue that has rankled, is the ongoing effort for train whistle cessation. Proposed upgrades to five crossings in Lacombe required under new federal regulations will eliminate the need for most warning whistles, but that work has yet to begin.

Transport Canada recently gave rail companies a two-year extension, which could push completion of the Lacombe upgrades into 2023.

“I am hopeful it will be sooner than that,” Goudy told council recently, adding CPR has received a $500,000 grant to cover 80 per cent of the cost.

The crossing issue came up in a brief discussion about Innisfail’s successful effort to get some of its crossings upgraded. As of June 10, whistles are no longer blasted at four out of six crossings.

Lacombe has been lobbying for years for the same upgrades and council is more than a little annoyed that it has not happened in their community yet.

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