Yes, we certainly would. Thank you very much.
Just to reintroduce myself, I'm Len Garis, the fire chief, but I am also appointed as the city's emergency planner under the Emergency Program Act of the Province of British Columbia,. So there are two pieces of contacts here that are fairly important to us.
When I describe Crescent Beach, a seaside community in Surrey, it's important to know that it's about 142 acres, with about 403 properties, and home to about 1,250 people full-time. That number swells during the summer; as I said, it's a seaside resort community.
I would like to point out that Crescent Beach has two access roads from the the beach, which are intersected by the rail line at grade. The primary route runs along Beecher Street and Crescent Road. As noted, there is a map in my presentation. The secondary route is McBride Avenue.
Due to their proximity, being approximately 500 metres apart, both access points have a tendency to be blocked by passing trains. Again, the map will point that out to you. It shows two proposed emergency exit access points, from our conversations with the BNSF and the city.
The geography of Crescent Beach takes the rail tracks along the coastline of Boundary Bay and Mud Bay at about 4.5 kilometres of the portion of tracks.
For some time, Crescent Beach residents have petitioned that the rail line be moved away from the coastline, citing concerns about dangerous goods being transported too close to the community, along with the inconvenience of having eight to 10 blockages a day, which last between six and 10 minutes.
In December 2007, a mechanical failure forced BNSF to apply its emergency brake at Crescent Beach, resulting in all road access blockage of about two hours.
After this incident, the Crescent Beach Property Owners Association approached the mayor and council and requested immediate action to prevent the community from being isolated or stalled by this train. To help this access concern, Surrey Fire Services, RCMP, and ambulance services worked with BNSF to create a document called the stopped train protocol , and my understanding is that you will be receiving this shortly.
Through this protocol, when a public request for emergency services is received, the emergency provider notifies the respective rail company to either stop or delay the train. The stopped train protocol also provides a process to follow a train breakdown block at critical at-grade crossings, such as those into the community of Crescent Beach.
In October 2010, the city contracted an independent engineering consultant to investigate the matter of emergency access routes to the community of Crescent Beach, should these two access points be blocked again by the train. The study investigated a number of options, but as it turned out at the end of the day, they believe that it was proved to be too complex and costly.
In November 2012, a short time after the stopped train protocol was implemented, another BNSF train breakdown occurred, blocking access to Crescent Beach. During this incident, the stopped train protocol was not adhered to, nor were the Transport Canada regulations requiring any stopped train to be blocked longer than five minutes, to provide unimpeded access to vehicular traffic. This incident resulted in a comprehensive isolation of the community for 30 minutes. Investigation by a BNSF trainmaster later revealed that there had been a communications breakdown.
As a result of the second incident, the mayor and council, the Surrey emergency program, and the RCMP essentially felt a loss of credibility with the residents about their ability to deal with this critical safety issue. We we had put protocols in place to try to alleviate this.
Over the following years, both access roads in and out of Crescent Beach were blocked by a BNSF train on a number of occasions. On June 26, 2014, there was a failure and a blockage for 45 minutes. On August 2, 2014, at 09:35, a mechanical failure resulted in a BNSF train blocking Beecher access for more than 10 minutes, and McBride access for three hours. On January 5, 2015, a mudslide at mile post 125.7, one mile south of McBride Avenue resulted in a BNSF train blocking both access points for three hours and four minutes. On February 18, 2016, a fallen tree across tracks south of McBride resulted in a BNSF train blocking the points again for an hour and 39 minutes.
Following the January 5 incident, a complaint letter was sent to Transport Canada, which responded by saying there was not enough evidence to support the complaint or to proceed with it.
To help mitigate that, the City of Surrey installed CCTV cameras, as well as an electronic monitoring system, first at the Crescent and Beecher Street crossing, and then at the McBride Road crossing. The intent was to collect visual, time-stamped evidence in order to provide Transport Canada with documentation and proof, and to pre-empt any emergencies that were occurring in the community that we knew in real time.
The CCTV cameras monitor and record all rail traffic in contravention of the rail operations rules, specifically rule 103(d), which reads:
no part of a movement may be allowed to stand on any part of a public crossing at grade, for a longer period than 5 minutes, when vehicular or pedestrian traffic requires passage.
Following the installation of the CCTV camera, the incident on February 18 was recorded and is currently under investigation.
It is important to note that from April 1, 2011 to March 31, 2016, there have been 228 calls for emergency service in this community, and in the past few years we have seen several incidents where a stopped train protocol should have been exercised but was not.
Further, on these occasions it appears that BNSF was in violation of Transport Canada's rail operating rules. However, the city has had no indication from Transport Canada that any sanctions or consequences have been applied in order to alleviate this problem and try to encourage them to follow the rules that are in place.
It is the City of Surrey's view that BNSF and Transport Canada have failed to recognize the seriousness of the Crescent Beach community's becoming completely isolated whenever a BNSF train blocks these two access roads.
This creates an elevated life risk, should there be a request for emergency services in the community of Crescent Beach.
That is my statement. Thank you.