It's Railway Safety Week in Portage la Prairie. City director of public safety Brad Bailey was on hand at the 3rd Street NE railway crossing for the proclamation. City councillor Sharilyn Knox was there along with Portage Fire Department deputy fire chief Norm Vuignier, CN Police constable George Kullman, and RCMP media liaison officer Larry Neufeld.
Bailey outlines concerns the city has with our dual set of railways lines running through the community.
"We have a couple major railroad crossings that get large flows of traffic through them," notes Bailey. "We want to see people being safe and following all safety precautions when crossing the tracks and dealing with trains going through."
He explains the fire department has responded in past years to railway events involving injuries.
"They're usually horrific events and we want to never have to respond to an event like this again," adds Bailey. "Railway Safety Week is a definite reminder to all residents to be cautious around the railways and to think before they use them inappropriately."
Knox adds it's an important week for the city seeing as there are two railways running right through the middle of Portage.
"We want to make sure people are safe when they're crossing them, whether that's walking or driving," says Knox.
CN Police constable George Kullman says it's always important to look, listen, and watch when around the railway.
"The safest place to cross the rails is at either an overpass or at a crossing," notes Kullman. "If you cross anywhere else, not only is it dangerous, but it's also illegal. There's a $900 fine under the Railway Safety Act and you can even get arrested for it, so it's all about safety. The railway owns the tracks and a good rule of thumb is that within 50 feet of either side of the tracks is going to be railway property as well. So, not only is it under the Railway Safety Act, it would also be under the Trespass Act as well."
Kullman says the biggest problem he's seen in Portage is trespassing.
"Just this morning, I had several kids on their way to school," notes Kullman. "It's the easiest path to go across the tracks, but it's also the most dangerous. Obviously, the last thing we want is to have something tragic happen just when you know somebody just going to school."
He outlines some statistics that show reason for concern.
"In North America, there's 2,100 serious injuries or fatalities every year from train tracks or around tracks," adds Kullman. "Last year, the number in Canada is 199 either serious injuries or fatalities. Be cautious around tracks and trains, and cross where you're supposed to."