CN Plans to Mitigate Noise Along the Rail Line

Noise from freight trains on the Burrard Inlet Line (the north-south rail line through Strathcona) can be, at times, disturbingly loud. Northbound trains frequently stop and start. When an engine brakes, the slack between each rail car results in a harsh slam-bang as each car is hits the one in front of it. At Cordova St., the safety warning system (bells, lights, gates) activates frequently, often when there is no train on the track. Needless to say, these jarring noises have residents living near the track on edge, especially when they’re trying to work or sleep.

On June 18, the SRA and several residents met with representatives from CN, CoV Transportation and Planning staff to discuss causes and possible solutions. Ken Scott, the assistant superintendent for CN at the Port, explained that trains running from Surrey to the south shore container terminals are typically long because of the limited access to the single-lane New Westminster rail bridge. These trains have to be cut into shorter sections to fit into the yards. To do this, a long train typically does 3-4 runs up and down the BI Line to back the cut sections into the Main Yard until it is needed at the port. All this back and forth creates lots of slam-banging and triggers of the Cordova alarm.

To mitigate the noise, CN recently acquired a piece of equipment, called a Python, which they expect to arrive from the U.S. sometime this summer. It will allow incoming trains to be disassembled in the Main Yard without needing to use the BI Line. This is expected to eliminate 9-12 train movements per day, which should significantly reduce – not only the noise – but also traffic obstruction and air pollution in our neighbourhood. In addition, CN has arranged to provide engineers with additional training on how to operate along the line to minimize noise caused by braking. The SRA would like to thank Ken Scott and his team at CN for taking the initiative to address these problems.

For its part, the City of Vancouver is exploring a pilot plan to close off the Cordova and Raymur at-grade crossings, which will (hopefully) eliminate the need for the warning bells altogether. Transportation staff are currently getting feedback from local businesses and residents. Stay tuned.