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Rail advocate says London needs a bypass to keep dangerous cargo out of city core

VIA Rail train 84, which runs from Sarnia to Toronto passing a Railway crossing sign at Guelph, Ontario. The Canadian Press Images/Stephen C. Host

A London rail safety advocate wants the federal government to implement safer measures that would fix the city’s railroads downtown.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard announced that the federal government would cover 60 per cent of the rail bypass in Lac-Megantic on Friday, prompting London’s Gil Warren to say he would like to see a similar project for Forest City.

“I think that is an excellent idea,” Warren said. “I’m delighted that finally, the authorities are going to move ahead and get those dangerous trains out of that small town.”

READ MORE: 5 years after Lac-Megantic tragedy claimed 47 lives, $133M rail bypass to be built

In 2013, a runaway train carrying crude oil from the U.S. derailed and exploded in the small Quebec community, killing 47 people and destroying part of the town centre.

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Warren fears that London faces a similar problem if adequate safety measures are not taken.

“Our perspective is that we should not be mixing very dangerous train-loads of oil and alcohol and all kinds of other things that could blow up with a residential neighbourhood,” he said. “And it’s not just one residential neighbourhood. There are a whole bunch of residential neighbourhoods that trains go through.”

Warren said “most people aren’t aware that under the law the railways are obligated to carry anything that someone wants carried whether it is explosive or not.”

He adds that the safety data indicates that the worst and most dangerous place are the two railyards in London because of how intertwined the tracks are, which could lead to a collision between trains.

READ MORE: Trudeau announces Lac-Megantic rail bypass nearly 5 years after deadly train accident

The downtown resident wants to see trains moved out of London’s core through the installation of a single rail line that would be used by both CN and CP to travel around the city.

He also wants London’s health and safety unity to take action in protecting the city.

“What kind of disaster planning is it to say that we will wait until downtown London catches fire before we do anything? The point of health and safety and public safety is to see a problem, and then do something about it before it turns into a disaster.”

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