Hay River residents are being advised to be more careful around the railway tracks in the community.
That comes after the Town of Hay River’s protective services specialist, more commonly known as the bylaw officer, saw people on the tracks and received other reports from concerned residents.
In one particularly troubling incident in October, Travis Rosborough saw a person walking on the tracks while oblivious to a CN Railway maintenance vehicle behind him.
Rosborough said the maintenance vehicle – a modified truck which can drive on rails – was honking its horn and flashing its lights to try to catch the attention of the person, who was wearing headphones.
“This individual just kept walking, not even knowing that this vehicle was behind them,” he said. “So when I got to the next railway intersection, I actually blared by siren and honked my horn. And the person still was unaware that we were even there.”
So Rosborough got out of his vehicle and walked along the side of the tracks to approach the male youth on foot.
“And they were actually quite startled because I think they didn’t realize the gravity of the situation until they saw the vehicle,” he said.
Rosborough noted that, during October, he personally observed five people on the tracks.
“I either initiated a traffic stop or ended up approaching them on the tracks to kind of have a discussion with them about railway safety,” he said.
Plus, he received reports of six other incidents of people on the tracks.
Rosborough contacted CN Police after railway maintenance workers expressed concern to him about people on the tracks walking their dogs and jogging.
“They had other incidents where they were trying to get around people, and they can’t because they’re on the tracks,” he said. “So I just kind of reached out to CN to see what legal ramifications we have for doing enforcement, as well as if they have any educational materials that they’d be able to provide to be able to help educate that type of enforcement.”
Rosborough said a lot of people seem to have a misconception that the tracks aren’t used.
CN Police are concerned about the incidents in Hay River.
“Rail safety is a core value at CN,” said Const. Dean Solowan, a CN Police community service officer in Edmonton. “CN Police is working with Hay River Protective Services to minimize the risk of accidents related to the act of trespassing or the use of an ATV on or near railway property.”
Solowan said the only safe and legal place to cross train tracks is at a railway crossing.
“Walking or biking along railway tracks or taking a shortcut across tracks is dangerous and illegal,” he said, noting a trespasser could face a fine or suffer a life-altering event.
Solowan said a concern of CN Police is that some people in Hay River appear to be “negligent and complacent” around railway tracks.
That may partially be because so few trains use the tracks.
However, Solowan said, “You never know when these trains can pop up.”
The officer said one train per day uses the tracks, and they have a speed limit of 10 miles per hour going through the community.
Solowan said CP Police and Hay River Protective Services are working together to deal with people on the tracks.
Under the Railway Safety Act of Canada, it is an offence for any person to trespass on railway property.
Rosborough noted he has a verbal agreement with CN Police to allow him to go onto railway property to educate people that being on the tracks is illegal and dangerous.
“Right now I’m working with the CN Railway Police to get a memorandum of understanding to allow me to provide enforcement on their property, which would include fines,” he said.
The CN Police are very rarely in Hay River.
Rosborough will also be placing stickers and signs from the CN Police around the community to advise people to stay off the tracks.
While there were many incidents in October, the bylaw officer noted that, as of late last week, November has seen only one reported incident of someone walking on the railroad tracks and another incident of an ATV on the tracks.