Assuming Tracks are "Abandoned" Could be a Deadly Mistake!
All across the country there are thousands of kilometres of train tracks that aren’t in use, or are “inactive”. But just because a train hasn’t been along a stretch of track for a while—even years—doesn’t mean that one couldn’t come at any moment.
No tracks can ever be assumed to be abandoned or inactive, unless they are clearly marked as safe and inactive, or are part of a museum installation. Often, tracks that have been deactivated can also be reactivated.
Case in point: Western Labrador Rail Services (WRLS).
The rail line operates over 31 kilometres of track in western Labrador providing service to mining companies in the area. The line has been dormant for more than three years because of the closure of the Bloom Lake iron ore mine, near Fermont, Que. But that’s about to change.
In February, Quebec Iron Ore, a subsidiary of Champion Iron, will restart operation at the Bloom Lake mine. And the return of the mine also means the return of trains along the Western Labrador rail line. For years, residents have gotten used to the track being inactive. The challenge for the rail operator now is to change residents’ behavior around those tracks, as there will be one or two trains passing each day.
“We want to make sure that we raise awareness to ensure population safety. They have become used to not having the rail operation there, so they may be in the habit of going through the crossing and not being careful,” says Stéphane Tardif, the Senior Director of Safety and Security for Genesee & Wyoming Canada Inc., the company that owns WRLS. “The message we want to get out is that there is no schedule. The train can pass at any time of the day. You can’t assume that it’s the morning or afternoon; there can be a train anytime.”
“We are delighted to see the reopening of the Western Labrador Rail Services line as it marks new hope for the local economy. But there are always safety concerns related to the operation of trains and we want people in Labrador West and Fermont, Qc to be especially aware of the fact that the line is reopening after a period of closure,” says Lloyd Hobbs, Operation Lifesaver’s Newfoundland & Labrador Committee Chair. “You should never take it for granted that a train track is safe to cross or that a train is not coming. Cars, trucks, snowmobiles, ATVs and people are no match for trains. Always use caution at rail crossings. Always look for trains.”
Quebec Iron Ore and WLRS are both working hard to get that message out to residents in the area. The railway is also putting up additional signage at the railway crossing in Labrador, near Translabrador Higway (route 500) to let people know the line is active and reminding them to: Look, Listen, Live.