The metallic rumble and squeal of a red train snaking through Banff National Park’s Bow Valley is nothing short of iconic in sight and sound.
While some may call it romantic, for others it’s become a living nightmare jolting them from their slumber and work at all hours of the day.
“The sound, it just perpetrates straight into our windows even when our windows are closed. And now that they clear cut this forest for a parking lot, the sound got so much louder,” said Marieve Marchand who lives steps away from the train tracks.
“They are irritating. We have to work from home now more than ever, so we are there trying to do our work and, in my case, working with people from around the world and then you have this horn coming through in the middle and it’s every hour,” she added.
A petition is circulating the town of Banff calling for the train whistles to be silenced.
Tony Clevenger started it. He is a wildlife biologist and has studied the impacts of trains on wildlife. He is now concerned about the affects the noise is having on people, estimating 200 horns per day are sounded in the Banff townsite.
“Many studies have shown chronic noise can affect human health and well being. It can cause irritability, loss of sleep,” said Clevenger.
“There is a precedent set just down the road in Canmore outside the national park. They’ve requested the town to do a safety assessment and they don’t blow the horn going through Canmore nor in Field.”
In a statement to Global News, Canada Pacific Railway said all trains are required to sound the whistle as they approach a public grade crossing under the Canadian Rail Operating Rules, but communities can apply for a whistle cessation agreement.
“The whistle is a significant safety device used as a warning to the public or employees of a moving train,” the statement read.
Clevenger made a presentation to town council last week asking them to request a safety assessment from CP Railway to see if the whistles are needed all the time.
Councilor Brian Standish agrees it’s an important conversation to have.
“I just read a letter from a woman 90 years plus. She says the train wakes her up every night. We have to do something about that,” said Standish.
Clevenger doesn’t dispute the need for whistles to be used if there are animals or people on the tracks. He argues few animals graze near the crossings where the whistles are used because it’s such a busy place, but he said he has no doubt the constant noise is disruptive to them.
Standish expects a motion to be made at council on Monday to move the matter forward.
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