Last week, Lakes District News attended a very interesting board meeting of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN).
A representative from the Canadian National Railway Company (CN) made a presentation to the RDBN board and answered questions about train safety and delays on passenger trains.
Although the passenger trains are run by Via Rail, they commonly have to wait for CN freight trains due to limited tracks, causing delays of up to six hours.
If you’ve ever been on a Via Rail train between Prince Rupert and Prince George, you would probably be thankful (as I was) that the RDBN board was asking some tough questions to CN.
I take the Via Rail train from Burns Lake to Prince George and to Smithers quite often. Although I love taking the train and I feel incredibly lucky to be able to enjoy the Northern B.C. scenery from the train, it can certainly be exhausting to wait for hours for a train that is late, or to be stuck on a train for several hours longer than you anticipated.
It seems outrageous that delays of up to six hours have become a common thing.
I’m sure these delays would be considered unacceptable by most transportation companies in most parts of the world.
Smithers councillor Gladys Atrill said the constant delays on passenger trains are a “huge detriment” to the region.
“Sometimes just a little desire to assist the passenger movement would go a long way,” she said.
When the train is late for four hours, Via Rail staff will offer you a free cup of coffee (which I certainly appreciate, but it is not enough to compensate a four-hour delay).
I’ve had plans ruined many times because the train was late for four or more hours.
The first time I took the train, I was hoping to do some shopping in Smithers. Since the train was four hours late, all the stores were closed by the time I got there (on the bright side, I saved up some money that day).
I was surprised when Via Rail did not notify me of the delay and that they did not compensate me for my ticket (and that everybody on the train acted as if the four-hour delay was normal).
Since then I’ve accepted that the train is simply going to be late, and so I prepare for the delay by not making any plans the day I take the train.
During the RDBN meeting, Mark Fisher, Director of Electoral Area A (Smithers Rural), said CN needs to recognize that Via Rail passengers are just as important as the goods that CN is transporting.
“It’s something that can be done,” said Fisher. “Recognizing that the people have the right to move.”
It seems obvious that the reason the delays keep happening is because CN would lose a lot more money with a late delivery of goods to its industrial customers than Via Rail would with a delay on a passenger train.
I get that, but one would think that people’s time and the money that they paid for a ticket would be given some importance.
According to the CN representative, this issue won’t be addressed any time soon.