Private rail crossings along CP Rail’s Bredenbury Subdivision are safe for now.
But if landowners want to keep them to access their fields they will eventually have to sign an agreement with CP and pay for upgrades and maintenance, which in some cases could be thousands of dollars.
That’s the understanding the Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) has been given by CP Rail, KAP general manager Patty Rosher said in an interview May 1.
In late March CP Rail sent letters to landowners with private crossings along the line that runs from Minnedosa, Man., to Bredenbury, Sask., stating if they didn’t sign a legal agreement by April 30 obliging them to pay CP Rail for upgrades and ongoing maintenance, their crossing would be removed.
Now that the deadline has passed CP has told KAP private crossings are not in immediate danger. Meanwhile, KAP has been working with CP on a another letter to send to crossing landowners.
CP Rail’s ‘do over’ letter says CP and the crossing owner currently don’t have agreement.
It points out that under federal regulations CP Rail is obliged to “improve grade crossing safety in Canada, and to “meet the requirements of the regulations by Nov. 27, 2021.”
“It is our intent to work collaboratively with private authorities, including entering into a private crossing agreement,” the letter from CP Rail official Andy Pfeifer states in part. “If, after taking all reasonable steps, the private authority cannot be determined or a signed private crossing
agreement is not in place, it will lead to the removal of the crossing.”
Why it matters: On short notice, just as seeding is starting, CP Rail is asking landowners to make an important decision with huge financial and land access implications.
In the meantime, Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa MP Dan Mazier has asked CP Rail to extend its deadlines.
Mazier also wrote Transport Minister Mark Garneau April 24, asking him to ask CP Rail to extends its deadline.
“I am deeply concerned with the approach CP has taken by providing farmers with an unexpected notice, that requires significant thought and has such large financial consequences, in the middle of a pandemic and at the start of seeding season — an already stressful time for farm families,” Mazier states in his letter. “Furthermore, I am disturbed that CP would notify recipients of a 30-day deadline which gives landowners little to no time to get answers to the questions they seek. It is completely inappropriate that landowners were not part of a thorough consultation process and were not provided with all the information required to make a decision in their notice from CP.”
Mazier also asked Garneau to extend the Nov. 27, 2021 deadline for the crossing upgrades.
And “to consider working with CP to pursue a solution that does not include burdening Canadian landowners with such costs.”
Mazier said upgrading one of his constituent’s crossing would cost $34,000.
“There’s no way farmers should have to pay for this,” he said. “They might be crossing three times a year and saving miles on their equipment. There’s absolutely no way they should have to pay. They shouldn’t have to put out cross arms. A gate that swings across and a lockout is all that’s really required. The regulations should recognize that. Common sense has to take over. In the name of safety that’s all you need.”
Changes to Canada’s grade crossing regulations were implemented seven years ago. The railways have had six years to consult and work with landowners, but have instead waited to almost the last minute, Mazier said.
Mazier, who was KAP’s president in 2014 and a farmer, doesn’t believe Transport Canada adequately consulted farmers at that time about proposed changes to crossing regulations, despite those changes having financial implications for farmers.
Mazier said he’s glad CP Rail appears to have scrapped its arbitrary April 30 deadline and is sending out a new letter.
“My thoughts are that this seems a much more reasonable approach as far as dialogue that I think all groups involved will be eager to start moving forward,” he wrote in a text. “From my point (I) still have concerns around producers paying for these regulations in a field, and that is what I will be focusing on going forward.”