CUT: Cecil Cormier was stopped by a CN policeman as he walked down the train tracks towards a rail crossing targeted for a rail safety awareness police stop. Eric Sparling – Amherst Daily News
KICKER: Rail safety
HL: Tracks out of bounds
SUBHL: Police use week to emphasize safe crossing and trespass restrictions
By Eric Sparling
Amherst Daily News
AMHERST – A fond memory. Blue skies and a walk with friends. One foot in front of the other, a balancing act on a steel train track. Or stepping from one wooden beam to the next, counting rail ties.
You were breaking the law. You may not have known it at the time, but walking on train tracks – even crossing them except at designated crossing spots – is trespassing. That’s just one of the pieces of information a Canada-wide initiative is trying to emphasize for the 11th annual Public-Rail Safety Week.
“Even one trespass is one too many,” said Const. Barry Gallagher with the CN Police.
Gallagher and a colleague, as well as a representative of Amherst Police Department, were stopping vehicles west of the Victoria Street rail crossing at noon Tuesday. It was a kickoff to the awareness week, which runs Apr. 29 to May 5.
This year’s chosen theme is ‘A shared responsibility.’ The awareness week is organized by Operation Lifesaver, a national rail safety program. Statistics provided by them indicate there were 261 railway crossing and trespasser accidents in 2012, and 78 fatalities – an increase in deaths over the 2007 to 2011 five-year average.
“We have focused locations (for the stops),” said Gallagher.
Other Nova Scotia locations this year include Truro and the HRM.
“We rely a lot on the train crews,” said the constable, when it comes to locating areas frequented by trespassers.
Maintenance crews also provide insight. Gallagher said trespassing in particular is a bigger issue these days than in the past because of security concerns and the threat of terror attacks.
“Times have changed,” he said.
Cecil Cormier may be able to attest to that. The senior was walking up the rail bed as the police prepared to establish their road stop. One of the police vehicles drove down the shoulder to speak with the walker.
He got a warning, not the $227.41 fine that can be assessed for trespassing.
“We walked the tracks all the time,” he said, speaking of younger years spent in Joggins.
He admitted he’d heard somewhere it was illegal to walk the tracks. Tuesday was the first time he’d ever been stopped. Cormier said the tracks are convenient and they remind him of home.