August 18, 2014 8:10 pm

Train delays in emergencies a matter of life and death: fire chief

Watch above: Saskatoon fire chief presents report on railway safety

SASKATOON – In an emergency, every second counts, and a train crossing delay can put peoples’ lives at risk, according to Saskatoon Fire Department Chief Dan Paulsen.

Paulsen said Montgomery Place is one of the neighbourhoods hardest hit by the waits.

“We have both major railways crossing through that area,” he explained.

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“There are times when all accesses, at least three out of four, are blocked.”

On Monday, the chief presented a report to city council focusing on railway safety.

Mayor Don Atchison echoed the chief’s concerns with emergency access into the Montgomery neighbourhood .

“There’s sometimes been delays of up to 59 minutes, and that’s just not acceptable,” Atchison explained.

During the meeting, Paulsen discussed solutions to the problem, including the installation of an emergency gate at Dundonald and Valley road; however, he said a long-term solution is needed.

“It would be ideal if we could look at alternate routing for rail services. I mean, that’s what it comes down to,” Paulsen explained.

Atchison, who has been a long-time advocate of moving rail lines outside the city, said it’s a costly process.

“Really it all boils down to money, and the railways have all said this: ‘if you’re willing to pay, we’re willing to move’,” Atchison explained.

“You’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions.”

Despite the high costs, Paulsen joins a chorus of fire chiefs across the country pressing for rail lines to move out of populated regions.

“The number of recent derailments, and of course Lac-Megantic is the one that is in everyone’s minds, that really brought this transportation issue to the forefront,” Paulsen explained.

Forty-seven people died in Lac Megantic in July 2013 when train cars carrying oil derailed and exploded, sparking major concerns about rail safety.

Paulsen plans to continue working closely with rail companies to strike a balance between commerce and safety.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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