AMHERST – People and trains do not mix.
CN has been monitoring a section of track in Amherst and has gone as far as charging people for walking on the tracks or crossing them – especially on a section of rail that runs between what people locally call the subway and the train station along Station Street.
“Railway property is private property and it is considered trespassing when people walk on it,” Jonathan Abecassis, CN manager media relations said. “There’s a certain risk when you trespass on rail property because there are trains. It’s essentially an industrial area with active trains passing by and anytime is train time.”
Abecassis said the rail company is not attempting to be heavy-handed and in most of cases people have been given warnings as opposed to tickets. He did confirm that some tickets had been issued, but couldn’t give specific numbers.
“We were getting complaints about unsafe usage,” he said. “Our police officers have been conducting awareness in the area. They do go and watch and see people and either ticket them or give them warnings. We want to make sure people are aware of the dangers and one of the ways we do that is by engaging with the community.”
While increasing awareness is the priority, he said, there are times when officers have to give out tickets to drive home the message that trespassing on the tracks has consequences.
“This action is illegal, it’s the same as trespassing on private property,” Abecassis said.
While no one was willing to give their names, a couple of people around the tracks Friday said it is unfortunate CN is charging people. Several pointed out there are no signs in the area warning people to stay off the tracks.
Abecassis said people are expected to cross at a designated crossing. There is rail crossing several hundred metres up the tracks at Victoria Street. He said not every business has a no trespassing sign on its property. There is a sign at the rail crossing on Victoria Street that says no trespassing.
He said several hundred people die every year in Canada trespassing on rail property. Last year, there were 222 incidents across Canada with 72 fatalities and 44 injuries.
And it’s not just walking that CN is trying to stop. Abecassis said too many people rise their all-terrain vehicles on and beside the tracks while there are some who have been caught jogging or walking their dogs there.
Each September, CN holds Rail Safety Week to remind people of the dangers of getting too close to passing trains. It is also active with the annual Amherst Lions Racing Against Drugs campaign at area elementary schools.
“When people don’t cross at a designated rail crossing it normalizes it and people become complacent. They’re not aware of their surroundings or pay attention,” Abecassis said. “You should never take a short cut that could cut your life short. There’s a risk of injury or death every time you cross the tracks. We tell people if you see tracks, think trains.”
CN, he said, is working with its engineering department to increase signage in the area.