Guelph residents gather on train tracks to protest overnight CN Rail work – Global News

Guelph residents gather on train tracks to protest overnight CN Rail work - Global News
Guelph residents to get reprieve from overnight train horns
Guelph residents, who are fed up with the CN Rail trains blaring their horns during overnight work, staged a small protest on the tracks on Tuesday morning.

It was another sleepless night for many residents in Guelph’s Junction neighbourhood thanks to CN Rail trains blasting their ear-piercing horn during overnight shunting work.

“CN has begun making investments this year and will continue to invest in safety through 2020. These investments will address many of the issues leading to current frustrations,” said Boulé. “Going forward, we will make sure to notify the City of any planned changes in our operations that might have an impact on the residents.”

The work in the area of Edinburgh and Paisley roads started last week but for the past two nights, the trains have been blaring the horn across each crossing, just steps away from homes.

About a dozen fed-up residents staged a protest on the tracks on Tuesday at around 5 a.m. and prevented the slow-moving train from crossing the road.

Boulé said the condition of the rail infrastructure inherited after taking over the operation of the tracks from Goderich Exeter has necessitated a significant investment for safety and efficiency purposes.

“We said: ‘we’re not moving until you shut [off] the horn and you agree to stop doing this,” said Stefanie Clark, who lives next to the tracks.

People living along the CN rail corridor between Willow Road and Edinburgh Road South have been bothered by the noise of trains in recent weeks as needed repair work is done during the cooler night.

“We’ve lived here for 16 years. There are residents that have been here for 20-30 years — they can handle a signal and occasional movement at night, it’s the four or five hours of train horn that is waking up the entire city.”

There have been reports of the horn being heard in the city’s east end and even as far away as Guelph Lake.

"They didn't tone it down, it was just a bit later in the night," area resident Dhalia Clark said of the train horns that people report blasting at around 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

Clark said Guelph police were called by rail employees, but no tickets were handed out and the small protest eventually dispersed.

So we went out into the wee hours of the morning (4:45am) to talk to @CNRailway about it & the story was different; that they ''have to use the horn'' & that it's ''in the manual.'' We just want sleep. That's not unreasonable.

"As long as they keep honking their horns, they're going to be out there," Allt said, as area residents have promised to return early Wednesday morning as well.

CN Rail has given little explanation as to why the horn is necessary and Ward 3 Coun. Phil Allt is demanding answers.

“I think CN is acting with very little consideration for the residents and that’s just not acceptable,” he said in an interview on Tuesday morning.

In a statement, CN Rail apologized for the “inconveniences” and said they will continue to engage with the city and review its operations.

"It's just crackers," said Ward 3 councillor Phil Allt, who attended the mini-protest around 5 a.m. Tuesday and observed from the sidewalk.

Allt hopes the complaints will be heard by Transport Minister Marc Garneau and encouraged residents to contact MP Lloyd Longfield’s office.

In a tweet, Longfield said he has spoken with CN Rail’s senior management and asked them to look at all options to find a solution.

I just got off the phone with CNR senior mgmt to discuss the construction issues in Guelph, shifting from day to evening, addressing local issues around traffic during the day or noise at night. Ive asked CNR to look at all options to find a solution. @CamGuthrie @PhilAlltWard3

Guelph residents who have been kept awake by blaring train horns in the middle of the night may get a better night's sleep on Tuesday.

Lloyd Longfield, the member of parliament for Guelph, says CN will be stationing flag people at railway road crossings in the area overnight so that trains can pass safely through without making too much noise.

People living near the tracks have complained about train horns sounding around 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. since the start of the week.

Mayor Cam Guthrie, MPP Mike Schreiner and MP Lloyd Longfield are all aware of the situation and have been in touch with CN.

"Like everyone else in Guelph I heard horns and whistles on Sunday night and I left Guelph [at] about 4:30 a.m. to come to Ottawa, and by the time I got to Ottawa I was getting messages from constituents who hadn't had a very good night's sleep," Longfield said.

"For 20 years we've lived right next to the railway tracks and it's never been a problem before."

In a statement to CBC Kitchener-Waterloo on Monday, a spokesperson for CN said the company is making "significant investment" to improve rail infrastructure in the area.

Longfield said he was told in a technical briefing with the company on Monday that maintenance was needed on the track gauge — the space between the rails. 

The city is helpless to enforce its noise bylaws because rail operation falls under federal jurisdiction.

He received another update from the CN Tuesday afternoon. Longfield said the company is now looking to adjust its work schedule, but in the meantime will continue to work through the night with the flag people in place to ensure safety at road crossings.

She said children aren't getting the sleep they need and aren't functioning properly at school.

"They're looking at a longer-term, medium-term solution of having the hours of operation shifted so that their not doing that work throughout the night," Longfield told CBC News.

"If this continues we're thinking of going to stay with friends somewhere," Clark said.

"But [Tuesday night] they will be continuing to do the work, so there will be some noise from the cars moving, but there won't be whistles and horns as they work through the details of shifting work hours on the tracks."

CN spokesperson Alexandre Boulé confirmed in an email to CBC News on Tuesday that the company "will be taking immediate action" by setting up manual safety measures at rail crossings in the evening.

"This will stop the need to use whistles during the night. This measure will be in place until new operating hours can be implemented," Boulé wrote.

"As soon as it is possible, CN will implement new summer operating hours. Once in place, the new operational schedule will only use train whistles at more appropriate hours."

In the meantime, Longfield said he is reminding people to avoid the area while the work is being completed.

Jeff Hladun, who lives a few blocks away, said about 8 or 10 people were standing on the tracks when he went down to the tracks just after 4:20 a.m.

"It's Guelph, right. We're all super raging and mad, but you wouldn't know that by talking to anybody there because we're all just trying to plead our case," Hladun told CBC News.

Longfield said CN police will be monitoring the situation going forward to keep people out of danger.

"That's a really unsafe situation for people to be on tracks when operators are working through nightshifts and operating at dusk or early dawn periods," Longfield said.

CN did not comment on the early morning protest, but apologized to residents for any "inconveniences and frustrations."

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