Trains are travelling along the tracks at higher rates of speed than ever before in and around Souris — and they soon could be going faster.
On Feb. 2, Canadian Pacific Railway sent out a public service announcement in Souris informing residents that the maximum operating speed will be raised from 20 mph (32 km/h) to 25 mph (40 km/h) effective Feb. 10.
“As a result of the completion of recent rail and track bed upgrades within the Rural Municipality of Glenwood and the town of Souris, Manitoba, Canadian Pacific advises residents that the maximum operating track speed will be raised,” the PSA says.
Furthermore, CP said more increases are coming.
“CP intends to raise the track speed within the town of Souris to 40 mph (64 km/h) at a later date.”
Chris McConnell, who lives approximately 150 metres from the tracks, said 64 km/h is too fast for a train to be travelling in an urban area.
“When a full train rumbles through, it shakes our house already,” McConnell said. “That speed is faster than we would let a truck drive through town.”
With the bulk of oilfield activity taking place to the south and west of Souris, McConnell is concerned about train cars loaded with crude travelling at higher rates of speed through Souris.
While the PSA said traffic flow would improve, McConnell said that is poor reasoning to increase speed and potentially increase the potential for an accident such as what happened in Lac-Mégantic, Que.
“It’s a feeble attempt to justify that by upping the speed (so) people won’t have to wait as long at the two crossings in town,” he said.
CP spokesman Ed Greenberg said they are constantly looking at ways they can be more efficient, both for their customers and the communities they travel through.
The railway has taken a number of steps to further safety in the area in order to be allowed the speed increase by Transport Canada.
“Before there is any enhanced track speed there are a number of different checks and balances that we must go through to meet the standards of Transport Canada,” Greenberg said.
While he wouldn’t get into the specifics of which goods travel the line in Souris for “security reasons,” he did say local fire departments are provided that information.
First responders are also provided access to railway experts in the way of training for potential accidents or derailments.
Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Larry Maguire said he met with council members from Glenwood and Souris.
“I heard the concerns loud and clear from the councils and we want to deal with it,” he said.
Maguire plans to voice those concerns with Transport Minister Lisa Raitt.
» Twitter: @CharlesTweed