Rainer Stepputat is under no delusion he won’t hear the trains rumble past him. For the past 15 years, he’s lived in Pitt Meadows, his back yard butting against the CP Rail line that cuts a massive swath through the community.
But Stepputat said in the last eight months, a change in the way CP Rail both stage their trains and when they do their work have made life in his home intolerable.
His home is located on 124 A Avenue, and directly behind his house are the two main tracks. Just north of that is the staging area for CP, where engines and box cars should be staged when waiting or being switched.
Stepputat said the staging area remains empty most of the time while trains sit idling for hours at a time directly behind his neighbourhood, both during the middle of the day and, more frustratingly he said, in the middle of the night.
“Up until last year, I could sit in my yard, have a bon fire and it was fine. It might have been five or six trains in a weekend,” said Stepputat. “Now it’s constant. They shunt their trains at two, three in the morning. They don’t care.”
CP Rail is in the midst of contentious labour negotiations with the Teamsters union representing more than 3,000 locomotive engineers, conductors, trainmen and yard workers. The union went on strike early Sunday, but went back to the negotiating table by Monday afternoon after the federal government entered back to work legislation earlier in the day.
The two sides have agreed to binding arbitration.
Stepputat has a video on his phone from the weekend, highlighting a train sitting, idling.
The agitation in his voice grows as he describes how it’s been rumbling for more than three hours, all the while spewing diesel into the air.
He said what’s compounding the problem is that despite repeated calls to CP Rail looking for an explanation, he’s been unable to speak to anyone.
“There’s supposed to be a community hotline. I’ve called three times and nobody has called me back. What’s the point of having a hotline if they’re just going to ignore you?”
On the CP Rail website, a section dealing with living near a railway clearly states that they don’t operate like commuter trails.
“CP trains operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. On some rail lines, you may see only one or two trains a week, while busy corridors can have more than 30 trains a day,” it states. “We pride ourselves on being available at all times for our customers so when their demands change, we change with them. If you choose to live near one of our rail lines, you will see the variability of our schedule. Some trains will run through communities without stopping while others may make frequent stops so our crew can pick up and drop off freight cars.”
Stepputat said he understands the occasional busy period, but the frequency and timing is unacceptable. He said there must be a reasonable solution. He said if the trains just moved down the tracks about half a mile, they would be in front of vacant farm land.
He said it’s come to the point where he’s considering moving, but he’s fearful the noise and pollution will make it impossible for him to sell.
“I won’t even let my grandsons play out in the backyard with five hours of diesel fuel spewing into the air,” he said.
Stepputat said he’s talked to neighbours who have the same concerns. He said he’s considering forming a group and presenting their concerns to CP Rail. But he’s skeptical it will do any good.
“They don’t care that they’re bad neighbours. It’s just ridiculous.”