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Residents riled over post-midnight train

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
September 24th, 2014

Many Castlegar residents got a rude awakening at roughly 12:40 a.m. this morning when CP Rail’s new nighttime train whistled its way through Castlegar.

City councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff, who lives directly adjacent to a train crossing, said the new schedule is a source of great frustration.

“I’m extremely upset – furious, in fact,” she said. “I’m not only a resident who lives right at one of the crossings, I’m a city councillor, and we weren’t given any kind of notification of this.”

CP Rail spokesperson Salem Woodrow said a CP representative had, in fact, notified Mayor Lawrence Chernoff of the scheduling change two weeks ago, but confirmed that no press release or other form of notification had been issued.

“We made an operational change in the area to improve our efficiencies,” she said, adding their business is customer dependent and the change was made to service a customer, which now means at least one train per night making its way through town. “We completely value the relationship with the communities in which we operate.”

Heaton-Sherstobitoff said she’s not feeling that love, as she feels calling the mayor is not living up to the company’s responsibility to the community and its residents.

“I called them and spoke to someone in their government affairs, and I was told it’s a 24/7 business and that they can unilaterally change their operations at any time without any notification,” she said. “I realize they play a vital role in our local, and the Canadian, economy, and I understand there are operational challenges to be met.

“But they do still have a responsibility to the communities they travel through. Just calling the mayor isn’t exercising due diligence – that leaves it on us (mayor and council) to deliver the bad news. Not notifying the residents of a major change that will impact their lives is just bad business.”

She pointed out that the Ministry of Transportation, Fortis BC and other large operations manage to communicate with city residents, officials and media – and suggested that, as CP Rail seems to have declined to do likewise, it’s up to residents to communicate to CP Rail by contactingCP Community Connect at 1-800-766-7912 or email them at community_connect@cpr.ca to let them know your complaints.

“For any change to happen, we all have to raise our voices,” she said.

Meanwhile, Woodrow said the changes have nothing to do with last year’s mass layoffs in Cranbrook, but rather was based on providing best service for a local customer.

CP Rail spokesperson Breanne Feigel said the Community Connect line has already received multiple complaints from Castlegar residents. She said they can’t tell residents exactly when to expect the switching operation (meaning the train to come), as schedules change regularly according to customer needs, but said a CP government affairs representative will be meeting this week with city representatives to see if there are any options to ease the difficulties this situation is creating for residents.

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