A Pitt Meadows man is asking the city to request that CP Rail shut down its engines when trains are not moving.
Rainer Stepputat told council last week that he has video of train engines idling behind his house for 12 hours at a time, bringing noise and diesel fumes. He asked if council can do anything to stop it.
Stepputat lives near the CP intermodal yard, on 124A street in Pitt Meadows. He moved there in 1999, and said when the intermodal terminal was built nearby on Kennedy Road it “created massive noises.”
He’s campaigned in the past for a new law to limit the hours of railway operations, but was unsuccessful. Now, he is taking an environmental and anti-pollution stance, to try to get the railway to shut off its locomotives when not moving for hours.
Stepputat told council it is ironic that signs warn vehicle traffic not to idle while waiting at the Harris Road railway crossing, but the huge diesel engines never seem to be shut off.
“Nothing is ever done about them idling for 12 hours,” he said.
He warned council that if CP gets the infrastructure it wants in Pitt Meadows – an overpass at Kennedy Road, underpass at Harris Road, and two more lines of track – there could be more train-building activity.
Mayor Bill Dingwall said he sympathized with Stepputat’s quality of life issues, but added Pitt Meadows sits on the main CP Rail line into Vancouver and the flow of goods is considered a national interest.
“They [CP] will quickly say that they were here first, and they have federal regulations behind them,” said Dingwall. “The trains aren’t going away. In fact, they are increasing, and they are increasing in length.”
Dingwall said council is paying attention to noise and mitigation concerns raised by residents, “and trying to accomplish that through [the] Gateway consortium.”
Dingwall added that work on new rail infrastructure in Pitt Meadows is being discussed. City officials speak with CP regularly and will be bringing up this issue.
According to a CP corporate sustainability report, the railway invested $60 million to modernize 30 locomotives in 2017 and planned to upgrade an additional 140 in 2018-2019, to reduce fuel consumption. It has improved fuel efficiency 15 per cent since 2012, says the report, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, below Transport Canada targets.
The Canadian Transportation Agency says on its website that locomotives idle for mechanical inspection and repairs, for oncoming trains, for cars to be switched or picked up, and while waiting for crew changes or for inclement weather to pass.
It says locomotive engines are not designed to be turned on and off in the same way as automobiles. Engines may be left idling to maintain engine temperature, air pressure for the brake system, the integrity of the starting systems, the electrical system and providing heating or cooling to a train’s crew and/or passengers.”
The agency can order a railway to make changes to its operations and says each case is evaluated on its own merits. It also acknowledges issues arise around growth and expansion of rail facilities when not “identified and addressed at an early stage.”