Piney Council says a half a decade of suppressed animosity towards CN Rail has once again reared its ugly head.
Councillor Ken Prociw says the company’s negligence has been costing ratepayers and causing problems for years and a recent event has once again uncovered strong feelings of frustration.
Prociw serves in Ward 1, where the majority of the conflict has taken place. As he explains, earlier this month, CN crews were working near a municipal road in Sandilands and made use of it to load a piece of heavy equipment onto a truck. The asphalt road, he says, was not intended to bear that kind of weight and so crumbled beneath the machinery.
Prociw says inflicting damage on Piney roadways is, unfortunately, nothing new for CN.
“Much of the equipment that they use is way over the weight that our streets can handle," he states. "Last year they sunk a truck that weighed over 80,000 pounds right into the street. It destroyed our asphalt, and they left holes in the road that were two feet deep.”
If this were only one or two isolated incidents, Prociw believes his RM could have looked the other way, but he says the repetitive and costly nature of CN's offenses make it impossible to do so.
“We’ve had problems with CN in all of our communities right from Sandilands to Middlebro.”
The concerns are not all infrastructure related either. Prociw says his municipality has a long list of wrongs that they feel deserve some form of compensation or apology.
According to Prociw, CN crews frequently fail to remove snow or replace the boards at dangerous railway crossings.
“The crossings are terrible,” he says. “Last year we even had an individual who got stuck in the middle of the crossing in Vassar.”
Another incessant grievance for Piney is the garbage which is often strewn near worksites and never cleaned up. “Littering is awful, all along the tracks.”
Finally, Prociw notes, CN contractors have a tendency to ignite small fires alongside the tracks, both intentionally through unapproved bonfires and accidentally through their work. Most recently, he notes, workers were pulling rails near Sprague Junction and the metal sparked and caused a grassfire.
“It seems they have a disregard for the area,” he laments. “It feels like they’re saying: you’re a small RM and we’re a huge company so we can basically do what we want.”
Prociw does concede that CN did repay them $30,000 for one instance of road damage but stresses that was their single act of recompense. Any other expenses sustained at CN’s hand have ultimately been absorbed by Piney ratepayers.
All that Council desires from CN is an open line of communication. They understand that the tracks require a lot of maintenance, but feel snubbed that their repeated efforts to reach out to the company have been consistently rejected. “Our goal is to work with them,” says Prociw. Ideally, Council wants a CN representative to regularly drop by the RM Office to talk through issues and discuss their projects. Right now, however, Council gets the impression they are not interested in any sort of dialogue.
Prociw says they have written Provencher MP Ted Falk a letter illustrating their problem and asking if he can help get their message across.
Without acknowledging any of these specific events, CN offered this written statement:
“CN works to establish productive and respectful relationships with all communities along its network. As rail safety is a shared responsibility, CN regularly makes efforts to dialogue with the local road authority responsible for part of the costs of a crossing to address maintenance matters. We have been in contact with the RM of Piney relating to outstanding issues and will continue to communicate with the administration.”
In the eyes of Piney Council, that statement does not hold true.