The Semiahmoo Peninsula’s MP and MLA say the tragic death of 15 year-old Jack Stroud last week underlines the need for action from all levels of government on rail safety.
South Surrey-White Rock MP Gordie Hogg and Surrey-White Rock MLA Tracy Redies both say they were horrified and saddened by the accident in which the Elgin Park student lost his life after being struck by a northbound passenger train near Crescent Beach on July 4.
The incident – now under investigation by the coroner’s service after police confirmed Monday it did not involve foul play – occurred less than a week after they both participated in a meeting hosted by federal Ministry of Transportation officials in which local politicians advanced safety concerns regarding the BNSF’s waterfront route.
“It’s a terrible, terrible, sad irony that we were just discussing this, and then to have this tragedy occur… it’s devastating; terrible for the family and for the community,” said Hogg.
“It emphasizes the whole issue of the need for looking at safety in the short term,” he added, noting that while rail relocation remains a long-term goal, “table-top exercises” to strategize for increased safety around the line, which will involve White Rock, Surrey and Semiahmoo First Nation, are a top priority.
“We must do everything we can to make sure the route is safe,” he said, noting that an increase in train traffic – now an average of 15 to 20 trains per day – plus a growing Peninsula population, only heightens the possibility of tragic accidents.
“It’s a decidedly different environment today than it was 100 years ago,” he said. “(This incident) reinforces the need for us to do everything we can.”
“Gordon and I are joined at the hip on this one,” said Redies, who said the death of Stroud had a particular impact on her, as the mother of a son aged 21. “I was sick to my stomach (to hear about it).”
She noted that while the federal government has shown an interest in funding a study of rail relocation, and both White Rock and Surrey have committed to cost-share it, the provincial government has not provided any tangible support so far.
“I’ve been lobbying the provincial government heavily for support,” Redies said.
Negotiations between the province and Washington state over a high-speed rail corridor are still seen as a short-cut to developing an alternative route for freight traffic locally, she said.
“While (freight) would have to run on a different track, it would make sense to have it travel the same corridor,” she said.
“It’s up to all three levels of government (to look at both rail safety and ultimate relocation).
“I want us to stop thinking about jurisdictions and start thinking what is in the best interests of the community,” Redies added.
“The risks are getting higher as the trains are getting longer.”