Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Update on Banff Train Whistle Cessation Plans


As was reported earlier, there has been a campaign by residents of the Town of Banff to have the CP trains cease using the locomotive’s whistles while passing the town.  There are a number of residences, including a seniors’ home, within 50-metres of the mainline tracks.  CP has reported that there are 20 trains per day, on average, using this primary rail-line.  This line is on of the primary rail shipping routes through Canada and has been so since the 1870’s.

CP has expressed serious concern about people crossing the tracks illegally on this section of track, despite numerous signs and other indications of the safety concerns.  There are warning bells at the at-grade road crossings 2.3 km apart, but these are a good distance away from the areas under consideration and it would be unlikely that those warnings would be heard in the middle of the section.  The train whistle is needed to warn people, and animals, crossing the tracks between the residential and industrial areas of the town.

CP’s preferred solation is for a pedestrian overpass, which would cost several millions of dollars.  There is a cheaper option of a signalized at-grade crossing in the area.  As of the meting of November 22 of last year, the Town Council is currently unwilling to commit this level of funding and has stated that they will hold off until further information, including a safety audit and clarity from CP and Parks Canada, are available.  At the March 27th meeting, the Council directed the Administration to ‘engage Parks Canada and CP Rail on potential improvements to existing alternative routes for pedestrians and cyclists to the Industrial Compound’, and to ‘return to the 2024 Service Review process with the costs and operational feasibility of increasing year-round Roam Public Transit service to the Industrial Compound starting in 2024’.  They had further closed meeting discussions which were not revealed at this time.

It may be noted that the Town of Canmore had a policy for many years restricting residential development within 90 metres of the CP rail-line, but this has been relaxed since the addition of continuous fencing along the tracks to prevent trespass.

In their document ‘Road and Rail Noise: Effects of Housing’, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) showed methods to protect the interior of houses from exterior noise from these sources.  For buildings this close to a major rail-line, these treatments can be expensive, and it would have been wiser to discourage such construction, given the track has been a pre-existing apart of this environment.  However, given the limited available space in Banff, it is perhaps understandable.

It appears that, at this time, there is no further update.

Richard Patching, P. Eng, M. Eng

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