Empty BNSF Railway coal trains will continue to run through rural Langley until the end of November.
Since July 7, Southern Railway of British Columbia (SRY) has been rerouting empty BNSF unit trains from the Westshore unloading terminal at Roberts Bank to the Sumas border crossing in Abbotsford. SRY train crews pick up the empty trains as soon as they are unloaded, transport them over BC Rail’s Port Subdivision through Delta and Surrey, then over CPR’s Page Subdivision through Langley and then over the SRY Fraser Valley Subdivision through Langley Township and Abbotsford. To date, there have been very few operational issues with the rerouting, says SRY spokesman Singh Biln.
The rerouting allowed BNSF to perform track and bridge work on their regular train corridor through the Blaine border crossing and alongside Semiahmoo and Mud Bays in Surrey and White Rock. The railway is replacing a long wooden trestle over the Serpentine River, where it flows into Mud Bay.
The rerouting was to end on Oct. 15, but BNSF requested an extension until Nov. 30. Consequently, SRY will continue to reroute empty trains through Langley and Abbotsford to the Sumas border crossing until at least the end of November.
“Railroads are a vital part of the North American transportation network and long single-commodity unit train operations are now standard on most railways. The Railway Association of Canada reports that one such train can remove up to 280 trucks from our congested highways,” Biln states.
“Unit train traffic continues to increase on all railroads, particularly on lightly loaded rail corridors; SRY must also keep pace with industry trends in order to remain competitive. Consequently, SRY will continue to seek new business and increase the use of our lightly loaded track segments.”
The track through Langley utilized by the coal trains leaves the heavily-used rail corridor just east of 232 Street and crosses 72 Avenue, 240 Street, 248 Street, 256 Street, 258 Street, 64 Avenue and 272 Street before entering Abbotsford, where it travels through Bradner and Mount Lehman before descending a steep grade to the Matsqui flats.
Other than SRY’s own local trains, only eastbound coal trains are using the corridor. About three trains per day have been travelling on the line since July 7.